Read this wonderful piece, just have to write down my thoughts to show salute to this important symbol of the game.
Old fans would recognize him as the smooth all around integral 6th man during the Bulls’ 3-peat. He was the pre-Dirk in shooting, pre-Gasol in passing, “the stretch big” before the term was even invented. He was probably the one that sent NBA scouts all over Europe, and landed us Dirk, Gasol and other European talents.
His historical influence in the world of basketball, however, was probably leading the then-Yugoslavian national team defeating the USA in 1990 FIBA World Championship and being named the MVP of the tour, which forced FIBA to loosen the restriction on the participation of professional basketball players in the Olympics. Simply put, without Toni Kukoc, the history of basketball would never have had Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, and Charles Barkley amongst other Hall of Famers on the same team. The highest level of basketball would had been set by other players later on.
Unfortunately, war raged and separated Yugoslavia into different countries, which also broke up the famed Yugoslavian National Team and torn up their friendship amongst teammates forever.
While most would remember Kukoc as the pioneer that introduced the European brand of basketball to the NBA, let’s also recognize what his legacy meant to the world of basketball and humanity as a whole.