Sports Nicknames - The Waiter, Pink Panther

Toni Kukoc is by many considered the best European player of all time. The Croatian player has made a huge impact on both European and NBA basketball winning multiple championships. In 2021 Kukoc was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Pink Panther - Croatian basketball legend - Toni Kukoc - Profile illustration.  Drawing.  Avatar art.  The Waiter.

Nicknamed "the Waiter", "Pink Panther" or "Kuki", Toni Kukoc was a unique player. He had a power forward body, with passing skills like a point guard and three-point shooting like a two-guard.

Most of the basketball fans remember him as a member of the Chicago Bulls team when he won three championships with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, but basketball fans in Europe remember him very well for his success early in his career. The biggest fans of Yugoslavian basketball also remember that Kukoc could dunk jumping from the free throw line before he turned 20.

Kukoc was born in 1968 in the city of Spilt in Yugoslavia, now Croatia.

After trying out as a football player and being a young table tennis champion, Kukoc stood out with his height and was recruited to play basketball. By the age of 19, he was already a European and world champion.

As a member of the Under-18 Yugoslavian national team, Kukoc won the world championship in 1987 hitting 11-of-12 three-pointers against the USA team that featured young Gary Payton and Larry Johnson.

The first six years of his professional career, Kukoc spent with Jugoplastika, a team from his native city. The team whose average age was around 22-years-old won three consecutive European Leagues with Kukoc being named MVP in all of those three seasons.

After the domestic success, Kukoc moved to the Italian team Benetton becoming the highest-paid European player ever.

"The Waiter" was drafted by the Chicago Bulls as a 29th overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft but joined the Bulls in 1993.

Kukoc spent seven seasons with the Bulls winning three NBA championships from 1996-1998. He was named the best European basketball player of the year five times during the 1990s. Kukoc was named NBA Sixth man of the year in 1996.

Kukoc averaged double-digit points in every season with the Bulls with a personal best 18.8 points per game during the 1998-99 season. That was the first Chicago season after Michael Jordan retired and Scottie Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets.

The next season, the Bulls continued their rebuilding process and sent the Croatian forward to the Philadelphia 76ers. Kukoc played a total of 80 games for the Sixers averaging 10 points per game.

During the 2000-01 season, Kukoc was dealt to the Atlanta Hawks in a package that sent Dikembe Mutombo to the Sixers.

After a short stint with the Hawks, Kukoc was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks where he played for four seasons and retired in 2006.

On the international scene, Kukoc has won two Olympic silver medals in 1988 and 1992, the first one with Yugoslavia and the second with Croatia. He has also won the 1990 FIBA World championship.


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