“The Last Dance” provided some rare footage of Toni Kukoc this month. In a Philadelphia 76ers world, we can only think of Dario Saric.
While The Last Dance mostly captured the electrifying dunks and pathological competitiveness of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during their six NBA championships in the 1990s, Toni Kukoc received the screen time that many basketball savants yearned for, since its premiere on April 19.
Aside from being mentioned sporadically through Episodes 1-2, and 3-4 — getting cursed out in practice by MJ, or sitting on the team plane — Kukoc made a splash in the series once the focus shifted to the infamous ’92 Summer Olympics, when The Dream Team laid a 33-point beatdown on his Croatian national team in the second game of the tournament.
A beatdown, of course, fueled by the fury of MJ and Scottie Pippen.
The Bulls stars held Kukoc to four points on 2-of-11 shooting and seven turnovers. With their menacing defense, and their quarrelsome general manager Jerry Krause in the back of their minds, they delivered on their pre-game promise: In the words of Scottie, “the worst experience he (Kukoc) ever had on a basketball court.” Luckily for the exasperated 23-year-old forward, he would go on to win three NBA titles with the Hall of Fame duo, and play a prized role in the process.
The final two episodes of ESPN’s 10-part documentary series aired last week, thus ending the lone source of live basketball entertainment since the league suspension for the foreseeable future. But the discussions, the debates and the comparisons are still very much alive. And when we think about Kukoc, his renowned skillset and overseas cachet, a player that has emanated from that same kind of resume instantly comes to mind: Dario Saric.
Better known as “The Homie” (a nickname that still clings to him thanks to a famous Twitter post by Joel Embiid), Saric was something of a living legend before he played a single game in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform.
How? Well, like Kukoc, Saric had begun his NBA journey as nothing more than a long-term development project — one that seemed unusually promising.