25 December 2018 – The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has announced candidates for the Class of 2019 with two Croatian players making the list.
Toni Kukoč (50) and Josip (Giuseppe) Gjergja (81) are included among candidates for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Every year on the 21st of December, the candidates for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame are announced because the date marks the birthday for the inventor of the game of basketball, Dr. James Naismith. This year marks the 127th birthday.
Kukoč, who has already been inducted into the FIBA international basketball Hall of Fame, was one of the first established European stars to play in the NBA, winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1996 and 3 NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.
He won a number of accolades throughout his impressive career, including being a 3-time Croatian Sportsman of the Year, FIBA World Championship MVP, 4-time Mister Europa Player of the Year and a double Olympic silver medalist.
Born in Zadar, Gjergja wore the KK Zadar jersey for 18 consecutive seasons, thus becoming one of the club’s legends. He represented the Yugoslav national team and won two FIBA World Cup silver medals in 1963 and 1967, as well as playing in the Olympics twice in 1960 and 1964.
He coached Croatia in 1994 and led them to the FIBA World Cup bronze medal at the World Championships.
If Kukoč and Gjergja were to be selected, enshrinement will be held from 5-7 September, 2019 in Springfield, Massachusetts and they will join Dino Rađa, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this year, Dražen Petrović (2002), Krešimir Ćosić (1996) and coach Mirko Novosel (2002).