NBA veteran Toni Kukoc has expressed his intention of retiring after playing 13 seasons. When Toni Kukoc entered the NBA, international players were not that prevalent in the league yet. In fact, he together with guys like Drazen Petrovic, Arvydas Sabonis, Vlade Divac, were among the very first to come to the NBA. Kukoc must be pleased to be among the pioneers of an amazing NBA practice that was part of David Stern’s plan to gain interest in basketball and the NBA all over the world. If you get international players, people all over the world will watch!
Kukoc’s retirement will mean that no one from the Bulls’ championship dynasty in the 90′s will be left among any team’s active roster. The Croatian Sensation, as he was called, was the last link to that legendary team and now he too has decided to end his playing days. It’s quite unfortunate that Kukoc has not been able to get back to the glory of his Bulls Championship days as he played for the Sixers, Hawks, and Bucks. On thing is certain though, his playoff experience and leadership has been very valuable to the Bucks as he was able to be a good mentor to his teammates to eventually make the playoffs.
My father, who was a big fan of MJ’s Bulls, would always tell me about what a great player Toni Kukoc was for that team. His combination of size and the ability to play all positions on the court made him a versatile player and his deadly shot from downtown only made him harder to guard. To me, that young clean looking Croatian in a Bulls jersey is his lasting image so it felt a bit strange many years later to see him looking much older and imparting wisdom to a young Bucks team. This is why the news of his retirement still looks strange to me even if it’s not surprising at all.
I wish the Croatian Sensation a good time in his retirement and good luck because retirement from playing in the NBA is not the end but in fact the beginning of hopefully a great second career.