Croatian basketball legend Toni Kukoč fielded questions from fans on NBA Twitter this weekend, ahead of the airing of episodes 7 and 8 of the hugely popular 10-episode docuseries The Last Dance about the Chicago Bulls and their last season with Michael Jordan.
With people across the globe stuck at home because of the coronavirus and no sports on TV, the docuseries, airing on Netflix in Europe, hits the spot, hitting just the right doses of intrigue and nostalgia. Here are some highlights from the Q&A.
Q: Growing up in Europe, what access did you have to watching any NBA games? Did you have any favorite player growing up?
Kukoč: When I started playing basketball in the mid-80s we did not have the chance to watch any live games, so we would buy videotapes of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and some other players, as well as MJ who just started to play in the NBA. We would watch these guys and how they played. If I remember correctly, my first live games were Detroit v. Portland and Detroit v. Lakers. Obviously, when I was drafted I started following the Bulls and watched all the Bulls finals, their first against the Lakers, then Portland and Phoenix. I would wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning and couldn’t wait to watch, especially knowing if I decided to go, those guys would be my teammates and I may play with them and maybe win a championship.
Q: Are the 1995-96 Bulls the greatest NBA team of all-time?
Kukoč: That’s a questions that’s not for me to answer. There are experts that can talk better about that. I am just happy that we are put in that category. There have been obviously a Laker team, a Boston team, Golden State Warriors who can be in that category. From my standpoint, I loved to be a part of that team. It was a team of a lot of different characters that came together with the same goal: to have a great basketball season that turned out to be one of the best seasons ever. We brought a lot of joy to fans not only in the US but all over the world. Still today people talk about that team as one of the greatest ever.
Q: In your rookie season with the Chicago Bulls, you hit a lot of game-winners. How much of a confidence booster was that in terms of acceptance?
Kukoč: When I first got to the bulls it was very dramatic. Michael lost his dad and decided to leave. The first day, I kind of bonded with the rest of the guys and were talking about a future without Michael. I had a chance to chat about the new season with most of the guys. I can honestly say that Scottie Pippen was the player who helped me the most in my first two years, along with Pax and Cartwright that year. Coach Phil gave me a couple of chances early in the first season. He had a hunch that I can hit those shots, paying in Europe and playing big time finals and he trusted I could do it. That gave me a huge confidence boost to play better and better each time I stepped out on the court.
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