Photo: Ante Čizmić / CROPIX
This is the greatest honour a basketball player can receive. After being included in the European Hall of Fame, I have now been inducted in the world Hall of Fame, which has rounded off this wonderful sporting career of mine. If I could do it all over again, I’m not sure I’d change a thing. It was my ideal basketball adventure.
Only special and rare athletes have had their game compared to art during their careers. One of them is Toni Kukoč, whose dance on the floor was poetry in motion, an art performance where the 207 cm tall ‘wizard’ from Split was gliding in a dimension of his own.
This text is too short to list all Toni Kukoč’s sporting achievements, but we will mention only the most important awards and medals received by this player, whose skilful hands did magic with the basketball. Toni Kukoč was a member of the best European team of the 20th century, the Split ‘Yellows’, with whom he won three Champions’ Cups in a row (in 1989, 1990 and 1991). He played for probably the most dominant NBA team of all time, the Chicago Bulls, winning three rings with them (in 1996, 1997 and 1998). He also won the world and European championships with the national team and, as a member of the Croatian Dream Team, he won the Olympic silver in Barcelona in 1992.
In addition to many team trophies, Toni Kukoč won a number of individual awards. He was the best player in the 1990 World Cup and the 1991 European Championship, a three-time best player in the then Champions’ Cup (in 1990, 1991 and 1993), the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 1996. He was voted the best European basketball player for four times by the Gazzetta dello Sport (in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1996) and five times by the Euroscar (in 1990, 1991, 1994, 1996 and 1998), and was included in the top 50 European basketball players by the FIBA in 1991. Since 2017 he has been a member of the FIBA’s House of Fame. The crowning achievement of his great career has been the induction into the Hall of Fame in Springfield, USA. It was in his eighth attempt that this basketball artist finally found his place in the ‘Louvre’ of basketball, in the so-called Class of 2021.
‘It’s good to be me these days,’ he says, laughing. ‘It seems that the script of my induction into the Hall of Fame was written by a very imaginative screenwriter. I guess that’s how it was meant to be. It’s a big deal for me; I’m glad it’s happened while I’m in Split, in the sports hall where it all started. When I enter the Gripe Sports Hall, it all comes back to me, the trainings, how much time I spent here, all the people who helped us achieve great successes, all our coaches. There’s nothing in sports you can do on your own.