Hall of Fame Rumors
Last week, Toni Kukoč had just visited the Croatian gym where he played for Jugoplastika Split as a teenager when Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf called him with some exciting news. Kukoč is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021. “Maybe it was in the script,” Kukoč said Sunday in a Zoom interview with NBC Sports Chicago from Croatia. “It was destiny.”
The fact he accepted a bench role for the Bulls’ second three-peat teams, winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award in 1996, when his talent would have led him to starting — and starring — on lesser teams is also noteworthy. “The first time I met Michael (Jordan) and Scottie (Pippen) was at the ‘92 Olympics in Barcelona and it wasn’t the greatest experience for me. And according to the first game, they were probably going, ‘Oh my gosh, do we really need him?’” Kukoč said, laughing. “But I ended up over the years I guess, actually right now I can say it being a Hall of Famer: I proved myself to them, I proved myself to the coaches, I proved myself to the fans of Chicago that I was worth taking a chance on.”
Toni Kukoc: “The only way to play with Michael and Scottie and Phil is they force you to practice hard to play hard, to give your max every single day just for those moments. So when those moments happen, I don’t want to say it’s expected. But in a way, it is. And you’re ready to perform.”
One of Kukoc’s most esteemed teammate in some of these championship runs was Dino Radja. After being himself inducted into the Hall of Fame in, 2018 Radja was now delighted to see his friend and former teammate receiving the honor as well. “The ultimate recognition of his genius. Well deserved. So happy for him,” Radja told Eurohoops in a statement. Following the announcement of his own Hall of Fame induction, Radja had said that Kukoc “belongs there [the Hall of Fame].” This wait is finally over.