Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen went after Toni Kukoc any chance they got before he joined the Chicago Bulls in 1993.
By the time the 1992 Dream Team had formed, the Chicago Bulls had already won 2 championships and were showing no signs of slowing down. With a vice grip over the entirety of the league, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were chosen to help lead the USA men’s Olympic basketball team on the biggest stage of them all.
There was a bevy of drama surrounding the Dream Team at the time, mainly revolving around snubs such as the infamous Isiah Thomas ‘freeze-out’ that has caused a rift to occur between the Pistons and the Bulls guards; a rift that stands to this day.
However, a storyline that went relatively under the radar was Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s disdain for a young, up and coming superstar on the Croatian basketball team named Toni Kukoc.
Jerry Krause wanted Toni Kukoc on the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan
The Chicago Bulls were stacked to the brim with talent in the early 90s and this was apparent with the fact that they ushered in the new decade with 3 straight championships. Bulls GM Jerry Krause however, looked to improve the roster even further as he believed the roster he himself had constructed, was not good enough to compete for long.
Rumblings of Krause’s interest in a 23-year-old Croatian point-forward were starting to surface, causing the Bulls locker room to be on edge. Scottie Pippen was especially pressed on this matter as he believed he was done wrong by the front office in terms of his contract; a contract he believed severely undervalued the things he brought to the table.
Renegotiations of Pippen’s contract never went underway at this time as the Bulls were looking to sign Toni Kukoc to the roster. This of course, didn’t sit well with Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen and so the two decided to give him hell in the 1992 Olympic bout between USA and Croatia.
— Basketball HOF (@Hoophall) May 16, 2021
Toni Kukoc got the last laugh against both Michael Jordan and Pippen
In the bus ride to the USA vs Croatia game, Michael Jordan let it be known that he was going to matchup against Kukoc for the entire game, Pippen chimed in as well. Both HoFers made good on this promise as they gave put Kukoc in prison on the court, not letting him dribble past half court. He would finish with merely 4 points on 2-11 shooting.
These efforts to embarrass Toni Kukoc would be futile as he would eventually join the Bulls roster in 1993, helping them capture 3 more championships in the process.
Fast forward 20 years later and the international superstar has been selected to the Naismith Hall of Fame Class of 2021. Many may question this decision as he was nowhere close to being a superstar in the NBA but many people forget that the Hall of Fame is a basketball Hall of Fame, not just one that takes into account accomplishments in the NBA.