Skip to main content



Toni Kukoč - the unsung hero of the 90s Bulls was one of the great international players in the NBA. He was among the first to open the door for players from the other side of the Atlantic, showing them it was possible to compete with the best of the best.

Before Toni, USA's and Europe’s basketball worlds were segregated, with a one-sided interest shown in the relation. Famous NBA author Sam Smith testifies to it, as he speaks of Kukoč as a complete unknown before coming to the league.

“NBA interest in Europe then was almost nonexistent. I had never heard of Kukoč.”

Sam Smith

With his performances in Chicago, Kukoč proved his worth to the NBA world, as he became an integral part of Bulls’ second three-peat, winning a 95-96 Sixth Man of the Year Award in the process. There’s a feeling that he could’ve done more on the individual level, as Toni possessed exceptional all-around abilities. However, he put the team’s interests above his own, which made him a part of one of the greatest runs in NBA history.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

That may be the reason Toni sometimes gets overlooked. Many have the same impression, especially after the airing of The Last Dance documentary, where Kukoč didn’t get the attention he deserved. Smith also sees Kukoč as unappreciated, as Toni was a lab rat in terms of being a high-impact foreign player deserving a real shot in the league, which was unknown territory for the NBA at a time.

“Kukoč is one of the more underrated players in NBA history because of the team he played with. With his ball-handling abilities and shooting, he could have been an all-time great. But he sacrificed his individual game and even played out of position as a rebounding power forward to accommodate the Bulls. Plus, the NBA still was uncertain about giving European players a prominent role in the 90s.”

Sam Smith

Toni, often being unheeded, has proof in the fact he still hasn’t been inducted in the Naismith Hall of Fame. Whether you agree with it or not, when you compare Kukoč to his peers who have already been inducted, it’s safe to say Toni deserves to be a part of that elite group. It’s something Sam Smith agrees with, as he believes Toni is once again a victim of setting aside for the benefit of the Bulls.

“Because he sacrificed individual statistics for the team and thus became the Sixth Man. The Hall of Fame doesn’t enshrine many reserve type players even though Toni often started. Toni was much better and more successful than his fellow players who are in, like Radja, Divac, and Marciulionis. Toni may be the best player ever from overseas to come to the NBA in his prime, unlike Sabonis. I believe he will get into the Hall of Fame within the next two years. He should have been inducted well ahead of players like Radja and Divas based on international accomplishments.”

Sam Smith

Great insight from one of the iconic figures in NBA sportswriting. Smith recognizes the player Toni Kukoč was and agreed with the overall take on him being unappreciated in NBA circles. Hopefully, it will soon change.

Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball

“Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump” — Chicago Bulls are set to be without Lonzo Ball for the foreseeable future

Ball said that he couldn't really run or jump due to his knee, which necessitated getting surgery that will keep him off the court for some time.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo defends Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles

“It seems like it’ll be very easy” — Joe Ingles is looking forward to sharing the floor with Giannis Antetokounmpo

Joe Ingles is excited to be in Milwaukee, touches upon rehab process and his teammates.

Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan

“It ain't like I'm 48” - Demar DeRozan on defying Father Time and trying to replicate a spectacular season

After a spectacular showing for the Chicago Bulls last season, DeMar DeRozan is ready for an encore this season.

Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams

Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams details how he went through "hell" in summer workouts — “The workout starts at 5 am!”

The Chicago Bulls sophomore went through a brutal offseason workout with teammate DeMar DeRozan.

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose dunks the ball against Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic

“This is my nightmare” - Goran Dragic on Derrick Rose's vicious dunk 12 years ago

Dragic has a sense of humor about one of the most memorable dunks in NBA history - “At least I'm on TV all the time.”

Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso

“The NBA told me I couldn’t” — Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso wasn't allowed to switch jersey number

Caruso wanted to honor Bill Russell, but the NBA had a surprising reason not to allow the switch.