The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced today that Toni Kukoč will be inducted into the Class of 2021 by the Hall of Fame's International Committee.
A native of Split, Croatia, Kukoč was selected 29th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 1990 NBA Draft, but played three more seasons overseas before joining the Bulls in the 1993-94 season. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team that year, and he played seven of his 13 NBA seasons in a Bulls uniform (1993-2000). During that time, he was a vital contributor on three Championship teams (1996, 1997, 1998) and was named Sixth Man of the Year in 1995-96.
"When Toni joined the Bulls in 1993, he had already established himself as one of the best players ever to come out of Europe," said Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. "While we knew what kind of player he was, we were not sure how he would adapt to the NBA. He quickly proved that his game was suited to play with the best players in the world. He was a star player on his championship teams in Europe, and one of the best sixth men in the NBA on our second three-peat championship teams in Chicago. There are not many players in the history of the game who have excelled at the level that Toni has. Congratulations on this very well-deserved honor."
Kukoč began his storied international pro career at age 17. In addition to his NBA Championships with Chicago, he was a three-time Euroleague Champion with the club Jugoplastika in Split. In the team's first title game in 1989, he scored 18 points against Maccabi Tel Aviv. In 1990, he scored 20 points in the defeat of FC Barcelona, and in 1991, again versus FC Barcelona, Kukoč scored 14 points in the victory.
After being drafted by the Bulls, Kukoč remained overseas and played for Benetton Treviso. Over those seasons in Italy, he won a league championship in 1992 and an Italian Cup title in 1993, playing a total of 68 games with averages of 19.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Other club titles earned in his career overseas include being a four-time National Champion of Yugoslavia (1988–1991), two-time Yugoslav Cup winner (1990, 1991) and two-time Triple Crown winner (1990, 1991).
As a member of national teams, Kukoč began winning gold medals as early as the U-16 and U-18 European Championships in 1985 and 1986 for Yugoslavia. He was also a gold medalist at the U-19 World Championship in 1987. His Yugoslavian teams were also two-time gold medalist (1989, 1991) and two-time bronze medalist (1987, 1995) at the European Championship. He led the Yugoslavian National Team to a gold medal, and was named tournament MVP, in the 1990 World Basketball Championship. Yugoslavia was also a bronze medal winner in the 1994 World Championship. Kukoč was a key player in Yugoslavia's gold medal winning game vs. the USA in the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle, as he scored 17 points with 10 assists in an 85-79 victory.
In his Olympic career, Kukoč won two silver medals in the Summer Olympics: one in 1988 in Seoul for Yugoslavia and the other in 1992 in Barcelona as part of the Croatian "Dream Team." He scored 16 points, had five rebounds and nine assists in the 1992 Olympic final vs. the USA's "Dream Team." He was also a member of the 1996 Croatian Olympic Team.
His individual accolades are also myriad, including being named one of FIBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1991 and one of the 50 Greatest EuroLeague Contributors in 2008. Kukoč is a five-time Euroscar European Player of the Year – awarded to the best male European basketball player (1990, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998), was the Eurobasket MVP in 1991, earned the media's Mr. Europa Player of the Year award four times (1990-1992, 1996), was named the Euroleague Final Four MVP three times (1990, 1991, 1993), FIBA World Championship MVP in 1990, was a three-time Yugoslavian Sportsman of the Year (1989, 1990, 1991), and was voted Most Outstanding Player at the World Junior Championship in Bromio, Italy in 1987.
Kukoč currently serves the Bulls as Special Advisor to the President & COO.