By Eurohoops team/ [email protected]
With Michael Jordan on his side, it was evident that Toni Kukoc will mention him in his Hall-of-Fame speech. He did it in a very honest way.
“I’d like to thank these gentlemen… Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for kicking my butt during the Olympics in Barcelona, and then motivating me to work even harder to become an important part of the Chicago Bulls,” said the 52-years old Kukoc, a European unicorn ahead of his time, as Jordan was smiling.
Kukoc whose status as a player and as a pioneer for Europeans in the NBA can’t be denied, finally entered the Hall of Fame, 15 years after his retirement, despite being a three-time NBA champion and the most dominating player of the early 90s in Europe.
Getting to the Hall of Fame proved to be surprisingly not an easy task for him, as it was getting to the NBA back in 1993 when European players were still a novelty. That’s why he added: “My sincere gratitude goes to Mr. Jerry Reinsdorf and the late Jerry Krause for insisting on bringing me to the Bulls and believing in me as a player when it wasn’t common for non-American players to play in the NBA.”
A 16-person Class of 2021 was enshrined, including nine honorees from the North American and Women’s committees: ninth-winningest coach in NBA history Rick Adelman, two-time NBA champion and 11-time NBA All-Star Chris Bosh, NBA Finals MVP, and 10-time NBA All-Star Paul Pierce, the first Black NBA head coach Bill Russell, four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Champion Ben Wallace, five-time NBA All-Star and NBA Rookie of the Year Chris Webber, two-time NCAA national champion Villanova coach Jay Wright, seven-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Yolanda Griffith and seven-time WNBA All-Star and three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson.
Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell is the fifth person to receive the honor of being a Hall of Famer as both a player and a coach.
The 2021 class also includes Val Ackerman, Cotton Fitzsimmons and Howard Garfinkel from the Contributor Committee, Clarence “Fats” Jenkins from the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Bob Dandridge from the Veterans Committee and Pearl Moore from the Women’s Veterans Committee.
Toni Kukoc was the direct election of the International Committee.
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