Toni Kukoc and Michael Jordan spent four years together in Chicago, winning three titles with the Bulls. MJ and Scottie Pippen weren't so fond of Kukoc when then Bulls GM Jerry Krause praised the Croatian big man, Kukoc became a target for the team's dynamic duo.
Eventually, the Croatian would play with Michael Jordan when the latter returned to the NBA in 1995, although they couldn't succeed in that year's playoff. After that, their relationship improved, with MJ pushing Kukoc to be the best version of himself.
It's well known that MJ could be harsh on teammates, but that was his way to push them, make them reach the next level, and not settle for the bare minimum. Toni really appreciated that, and now Jordan will be in charge of inducting him into the Hall of Fame alongside Jerry Reinsdorf.
Talking about his relationship with the 6x NBA champion, Kukoc said that he valued every moment with Jordan since that impacted him in every possible way.
“In every way possible,” Kukoc said Friday, when asked how Jordan influenced him, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports. “He wasn’t the nicest of teammates. But in a way, he was pushing everybody to practice good.
“I don’t want to say what part of my speech is going to be (Saturday). But our practices were actually harder than games we played. And it was all because Michael and Scottie were there each and every day, together with Phil, to make us believe that there’s always a chance to get better. That there’s always something new, something else to learn in a game. And that I think it’s one of the biggest reasons why we had that kind of run and won three championships in a row.”
Mike never backed down when he pushed his teammates. He could be ruthless sometimes, trying to reach the next level and win championships. Some teammates were even afraid of him due to his personality and fierce competitiveness.
MJ would admit that he didn't ask them to do anything he couldn't, and he always expected excellence from his teammates.
Well, some took advantage of that, and others didn't. Kukoc did learn from that, becoming better on and off the court.