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YouTube Gold: Don’t Celebrate Too Early

Or Kukoč could make you pay

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Johnny Newman tries to ta
CHICAGO, UNITED STATES: The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Johnny Newman tries to take the ball away from the Chicago Bulls’ Toni Kukoc in the first half 15 March 1999 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. 
Photo credit should read JOHN ZICH/AFP via Getty Images

People around basketball will always tell you not to celebrate too early. This is for obvious reasons: first, sportsmanship still matters, and second, as the great Yogi Berra said, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

That was really true of former Chicago Bulls great Toni Kukoč.

6-11 Kukoč was amazingly versatile and also, pretty clearly, had a clutch gene that turned up early in his career.

In his rookie season, Chicago was playing Indiana and, Reggie Miller being Reggie Miller, he hit a clutch shot with 0.8 left to give the Pacers the lead.

Then, being Reggie Miller, he bowed to the United Center crowd

Should’ve waited.

After a timeout, Chicago got the ball into Kukoč who got off a quick three to win.

Later in his rookie season, in the playoffs, Bulls coach Phil Jackson called a play for Kukoč to take the last shot against the New York Knicks (this was the game where Scottie Pippen famously refused to go in to help because he felt like he should take the last shot). That play started with 1.8 left on the clock as Kukoč struck again.

Pippen and Jordan overshadowed Kukoč, but he was something special in his own right.