By Antonis Stroggylakis / firstname.lastname@example.org
The general consensus on Twitter was loud and clear when the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame officially announced that three-time NBA champion Toni Kukoc will be among the inductees of the 2021 Class.
“Finally.” “It’s about freaking time” “Way overdue honor” and other similar phrases were used as reactions to the news of Kukoc’s upcoming Hall of Fame enshrinement. A highly-anticipated distinction for one of the most successful players of all time on a global scale, a hooper who was positionless basketball personified before it even became a thing, and someone whose career was defined by winning, both on a club and national team level.
One of Kukoc’s most prominent comrade-in-arms in some of these championship runs was Dino Radja. After being himself inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018 Radja, was now delighted to see his friend and former teammate receiving the honor as well.
“The ultimate recognition of his genius. Well deserved. So happy for him,” Radja told Eurohoops in a statement. Following the announcement of his own Hall of Fame induction, Radja had said that Kukoc “belongs there [the Hall of Fame].” This wait is finally over.
Kukoc and Radja played together on the legendary Jugoplastica (now KK Split) from 1985 to 1990, when the latter moved to Virtus Roma. Together, the two Croatian greats won the back-to-back European championships of 1989 and 1990, apart from numerous medals in international competitions.
They would meet each other again on the NBA courts, this time as opponents, when they decided to make their jump to the league at the same time, in 1993. Kukoc became a member of the Chicago Bulls and Radja arrived at the Boston Celtics after the franchise waited for ages for him to join them.
When Kukoc retired from professional basketball in 2006 he had completed a journey that pretty much screamed “Hall of Fame stuff.” Yet despite his enormous collection of team and individual titles, and the impact he had also as a pioneer for future generations of European players in the NBA, no enshrinement was on the horizon.
Until now. Now he will be a Hall of Famer.
“It’s a process. What’s important is that he’s there,” Radja said.