Kukoc named to 2021 Naismith Hall of Fame class

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bulls Toni Kukoc shoots over Seattle SuperSonics Gary Payton in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the 1996 NBA finals. Kukoc, a pioneer in a variety of ways, will be part of the 2021 class headed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Bulls Toni Kukoc shoots over Seattle SuperSonics Gary Payton in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the 1996 NBA finals. Kukoc, a pioneer in a variety of ways, will be part of the 2021 class headed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/16/2021 6:30 PM

Another member of the 1990s Bulls is joining the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Toni Kukoc was announced as a member of the 2021 class, selected by the international committee, to be inducted on Sept. 11 in Springfield, Mass.

 

He'll join Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, coach Phil Jackson, assistant coach Tex Winter, general manager Jerry Krause and broadcaster Johnny "Red" Kerr among those who were part of multiple NBA titles with the Bulls.

A native of Split, Croatia, Kukoc was a pioneer in a couple of ways. He was one of the first European stars to join the NBA without attending college in the U.S. He was chosen by the Bulls in the second round of the 1990 NBA draft, then continued to play in Italy until joining the Bulls in 1993, just before Jordan's first retirement.

He also helped change the NBA game as a 6-foot-10 player who could handle the ball, shoot 3-pointers and play most any position.

During seven seasons with the Bulls, Kukoc averaged 14.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists, while playing a key role on the 1996-98 championship teams. He won the NBA's Sixth Man Award in 1996.

The Bulls traded Kukoc to Philadelphia during the 1999-2000 season, for a first-round pick (which turned out to be Jamal Crawford) and cap space in hopes of signing some marquee free agents (didn't happen). Kukoc played until 2006, spending time with Philadelphia, Atlanta and Milwaukee after leaving the Bulls.

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After retiring as a player, Kukoc has continued to live in the northern suburbs and serve as a Bulls team ambassador. He's currently listed as a special adviser to president and COO Michael Reinsdorf.

"When Toni joined the Bulls in 1993, he had already established himself as one of the best players ever to come out of Europe," Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "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."

Kukoc won two Olympic silver medals, for Yugoslavia in 1988 and Croatia in 1992. He was named one of FIBA's 50 greatest players in 1991.

Another former Bulls player selected for the 2021 Hall of Fame Class is Ben Wallace, who played in Chicago from 2006-08. Wallace is a four-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, and was a key player in Detroit's 2004 championship.

The rest of the class includes players Paul Pierce, Chris Webber, Chris Bosh, Yolanda Griffin and Lauren Jackson; coaches Rick Adelman, Bill Russell and Jay Wright; contributors Val Ackerman, Cotton Fitzsimmons and Howard Garfinkel. Bob Dandridge was added by the veteran's committee, Clarence "Fats" Jenkins by the early African American pioneer committee, and Pearl Moore by the women's veteran's committee.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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