HBD: Kukoc

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Today we celebrate the birthday of international star, Toni Kukoc (he’s turning the big 5-0). Without Toni, we wouldn’t have had the Manu Ginobli and Tony Parkers of the world. The 1990 late 2nd round pick helped pioneer the “draft and stash” mentality we see now. At the time, European players had a stigma of being inferior to American ballers but Toni helped prove that notion wrong. From 1993 – 2000, basically once MJ retired, Toni was tasked with the challenge of helping curve the scoring loss caused by Jordan’s departure. His role expanded slowly as coach (Phil) Jackson gained more trust in the young Croatian and started to play him with regularity. Kukoc would find his niche as a 6th-man (the 6th Man in 1996) supporting Scottie, and later MJ with his diverse skillset. Tony served as the Bull’s offensive punch off the bench with his ability to stretch the court and put the ball on the floor. Throughout the Bull’s second 3-peat Kukoc was the squad’s third best scorer behind Scottie and (his hero growing up) Michael Jordan.

The 1992 Olympics captivated the world, and it introduced the world to NBA caliber play… Toni was up to the challenge. Here he is guarding Chris Mullin.

From Croatia and standing at 6’11”, Toni was a dynamic stretch 3/4 before it was a thing. Think of Lamar Odom with a better jumpshot (but slower and an inferior playmaker) and you’ll have a good idea of what Toni’s game was like. Fun fact, in the 1998-’99 season lead the Pippen/MJ-less Bulls in scoring, rebounding and assists, proving that he had #1 option skills. After stints in Philadelphia and Atlanta, Toni settled in with the Milwaukee Bucks from 2002-’06 where he would retire. Peep some pics of Kukoc in his prime and rocking some killer late ’90’s footwear.

Upon Toni’s retirement after the 2006 season he received a special package from one of his former teammates… Pictured above we have ‘Fire Red’ and ‘Black Metallic’ Jordan V retros featuring Toni’s number were we’d normally find MJ’s. Other than that these appear to be stock 2006 retros but in our opinion – those are some of our favorite kinds of PEs. Simple, clean and personalized – what’s better than that?

Kukoc posting up Ray Allen in the Team Jordan II.

 

Toni in the Team Jordan I.

 

Old-man Logan, we mean, Old Man Toni still in Concord 11’s.
Kukoc in Euro play wearing the Indiglo AJ 14.

 

6th Man of the Year Toni in the Concord 11’s.
Nothing can stop Toni, he’s all the (Air) Way Up!

 

Young Toni, probably in his Rookie Season, wearing the Air Maestro.