As we navigate through this offseason we got to see this year’s Naismith Hall of Fame inductees. One of the former NBA players inducted into the hall of fame was a key piece in the Bull’s second three-peat. That player is none other than forward Toni Kukoc. Kukoc played for the Bulls from 1993 until the middle of the 1999-2000 season. He was with the team for roughly six and a half years and played some of the best basketball of his career with the Bulls. On top of his NBA career, Kukoc had a solid career playing internationally prior to coming to the NBA. Looking at Kukoc’s career as a whole there’s no doubt he deserved his hall of fame induction.
Today, Toni Kukoc joins the Hall of Fame!
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) September 11, 2021
During the hall of fame induction, Kukoc brought with him a very familiar face. Kukoc brought with him the best person he felt could stand beside him while receiving this honor. That person is the GOAT, Michael Jordan.
It all started at the Olympic Games
When you look at the relationship between Toni Kukoc and Michael Jordan it appears to go beyond basketball. However, their relationship didn’t start as a friendly one. It all started in the 1992 Olympics. Team USA was going up against Croatia which featured Kukoc. When the US played against Croatia in the first matchup both Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen made it a point to not allow Kukoc to get comfortable. They played him as tough as possible and picked him up defensively well before half-court. In this game they allowed Kukoc to score only 4 points while turning the ball over 7 times. While that was a tough start to their relationship it appears Kukoc is grateful for that. He made sure to thank Jordan and Pippen for it during his hall of fame speech.
"I would like to thank Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for kicking my butt during the Olympics in Barcelona, and then motivating me to work even harder to become an important part of the Chicago Bulls." – Toni Kukoc pic.twitter.com/dPihZfdudB
— NBA (@NBA) September 12, 2021
Sometimes all it takes is for someone to humble you for you to continue growing. In this instance, it looks like that worked out quite well for the Croatian Sensation. After all, he did just find himself being inducted into the hall of fame. After going through some tough trials at the Olympics and losing to team USA twice Kukoc found himself officially joining the team that had drafted him three years prior.
Kukoc and Jordan officially team up
The Bulls selected Kukoc in the second round of the 1990 draft but stashed him away in Europe to allow him to continue getting better. After allowing him to build his skills in Europe the Bulls simply had no choice but to officially bring him to Chicago. Kukoc came over ahead of the 1993-94 season. He found himself teaming up with Pippen and Jordan who just recently beat up on him in the 92 Olympics. Looking back it appears Kukoc couldn’t have asked for a better situation for his career. Playing with the greatest basketball player to ever play the game was an experience Kukoc would never forget.
Being a part of that legendary squad is a huge honor, Toni Kukoc 🤝 pic.twitter.com/SDQKeNB6Mp
— Bulls Nation (@BullsNationCP) September 10, 2021
It didn’t take Kukoc too long to become an important piece for this Bulls team. He helped bring the team three more championship trophies and had quite a few clutch moments along the way.
Kukoc was clutch
On a team with Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, and Dennis Rodman it’s hard to make a name for yourself. However, Kukoc did just that in his time with the Bulls. Kukoc quickly made a name for himself by coming up big in the clutch. He had multiple moments where his catch and shoot ability in the final seconds of games couldn’t be stopped. This gave him a lasting impact on a Bulls team filled with stars.
Toni Kukoc's NBA career was full of clutch moments 📸
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) September 9, 2021
When you think of the Bull’s second three-peat you may not think of Kukoc right away but he’s certainly not a player you should forget about. He was a key piece to this team and without some of his clutch shots, the Bulls may not have achieved everything they did. He’s not the biggest star to come from the Bulls but he’s a very important one. This is a well-deserved honor for Toni Kukoc and his time in Chicago will never be forgotten.