Most basketball players often recall their first time beating dad one-on-one as one of the transcendental moments in their basketball lives.
But for freshman Marin Kukoc, that moment may not have come yet, if only because his father Toni is a former Sixth Man of the Year and a three-time champion during his 13-year NBA career.
“I’m getting there,” the younger Kukoc said. “He cheats sometimes.”
Toni rose to fame as a key member of the Chicago Bulls’ second three-peat (1996-98), and he later played for the Philadelphia 76ers, the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks.
At 6-foot-7, Marin doesn’t quite stack up to his father’s 6-foot-11 stature, but he brings to Penn much of what Toni brought the Bulls when he first came over from Europe: size and versatility.
Toni averaged at least four assists a game in four consecutive seasons (1996-00), a rarity for a player his height.
Marin, meanwhile, is relatively tall for a guard, especially in the Ivy League, and he will be looking to showcase some of the things he learned (and is still learning) from pops.
“One thing he’s been known for is court vision, just seeing the whole floor and processing the game,” Marin said. “So I’m trying to pick that up from him.”
In addition to the pointers on the court, Marin has also gained some unique experiences as the son of an NBA player.
Though Marin only served as a ball boy a few times — “[Toni] never wanted me to … because he’d be thinking about me during the game,” — Marin did get to travel quite a bit, moving to Atlanta while Toni was with the Hawks, to Philadelphia when he was with the Sixers and back to Chicago when Toni finished his career out with the Bucks.
His father has also shared some Michael Jordan stories with Marin that highlight just how competitive Jordan was, such as the way he would make teammates continue to play him in cards until he beat them.
And one of Marin’s most enviable experiences may not even be one that he remembers clearly. Fortunately for him though, there is photographic evidence that preserves the moment in question: a picture of him sitting atop Toni’s shoulders and high-fiving Jordan during one of the Bulls’ championship celebrations.
Though he does not have a copy of the picture, he does have friends who do, not knowing it’s a young Marin in the photo.
“I have one or two friends that have that exact picture, and I’m like, ‘Oh wait, that’s me right there, by the way,’” Marin said. “It’s cool to ... know that I was kind of like a part of [the Bulls’ championship run].”
Marin’s next photo op with his dad might just be tomorrow, when Penn takes on Davidson at the Palestra. Marin said he thinks his father will be in attendance and may make it to a few other games, including Penn’s Jan. 3 bout with Kentucky.
But those Kukoc fans who can’t pick Toni out of the crowd may not have to look too far to find shades of him on the court.Comments powered by Disqus
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