JohnnyKILLroy wrote:samwana wrote:Thanks man, I enjoyed your post very much. Took me back to those amazing years of basketball in Europe. These teams where so fun to watch!chefo wrote:I see a lot of talk that his international success was against "scrubs", which is a very US-focused view of affairs. The mid 80s to the early 90s (when Yugoslavia and the USSR both dissolved) were the absolute, bar-none, golden age of European club basketball. Why?
Because the average NBA fan thinks that European players just became good ever since a bunch of end-of-bench kids started getting drafted in the NBA and several of them panned out. They didn't. They've been good for awhile. It's just nobody on this side of the Atlantic cared.
The late 1980s were absolutely, insanely competitive in European club ball because the 1980s had insane overall top-end talent spread around the top 6-7 clubs.
Toni's Jugoplastika team had him, Dino Radja, Tabak and Savic, and some random other Yugo national team players sprinkled in--the same that finished 2nd in 88 Olympics losing to Sabonis' USSR and then won the 1990 World Cup. Hell, Partizan in the Yugo league couldn't get a championship until Toni left for Italy and that was a team with Divac, Danilovic and Sasha Djorgevic.
Aris back then had Galis and Giannakis, and won 80 (!) straight games in Greece, despite playing against two other European power houses in Olympiakos and Panatinaikos multiple times a year. Look these two dudes up. Suffice it to say, in an era with the best ever Yugo and USSR teams that had rosters full of hall-of-famers, they won a European championship for Greece.
Real Madrid with Petrovic couldn't even beat Barcelona to compete in the Champion's League. Same for Oscar Schmidt in Italy who never won against Olimpia Milano (with old Bob McAdoo, Moustache and Dino Menegin).
In the USSR you had Zalgiris with Sabonis and Kurtinaitis who were so dominant that Moscow's darling CSKA with Volkov and half the USSR's national team couldn't beat them, and neither could Lietuvos Rytas with the Bulls' very own Lord AK and Marčiulionis, who were big stars in their own right.
The Spanish, Greek, Yugo, USSR and Italian leagues all had 2-3 absolutely superb teams from where these countries drafted their entire national teams. Then you had the best Turkish clubs and Maccabi as well.
Each of these clubs, if playing motivated, would have absolutely spanked any non-generational US college team. Toni's championship clubs for example, started three ~7 footers, two of them currently hall-of-famers. To put them in the same sentence with US high-school hoops and even US college hoops programs is absolutely laughable.
Toni was much beloved in Europe because he was the 6'11 European Magic-like prodigy and his team beat over and over teams that often had 2-3 hall-of-famers in their own right, plus another 2-3 national team players from that country as well. It was incredibly hard to win the EuroLeague once with their final 4 single-game elimination, let alone to three-peat like he did.
As for Toni himself--yeah, he had no off-court discipline and was known as a slacker his entire early career, even before coming to the NBA. That being said, had he ended up not on the Bulls where he played out of position at SF/PF, in a system without a PG, and behind the GOAT and Scottie, I could have easily seen him have a decade of averaging something like 18/9/7 with probably a random year of 21/9/7. In an era before the stats inflation of the modern day where these kind of numbers were much harder to come by. He probably would have been a multiple all-star and never won a thing... and still would have made it in the Hall-of-Fame anyways.
P.S. Just for some context:
Had Yugoslavia not fallen into civil war, here's what the Yugo team of 1992 could have looked like:
PG: Toni / Sasha (best European PG of his generation)
SG: Petrovic (best European scorer of his generation)
SF: Danilovic / Bodiroga (best wing that played in Europe of his generation)
PF: Radja / Savic
C: Vlade / Savic (one of the best European bigs of his generation)
Plus a score of athletic 7 foot stiffs to round out the roster.
Assuming Petrovic doesn't crash and die, you put that exact team in the NBA in the mid 1990s, and that's a solid second round team, if not better. There was so much hype about them facing off against the Dream Team in Barcelona... never happened, but the young, non-prime versions of these guys were absolutely destroying everybody they went up against in international competition. Their last tournament together, they won Eurobasket 1991 by an average margin of over 20 and that was without Patrovic, who was the best of the bunch. That was the golden Yugo generation and the best European team ever, and Toni was the second best player on it.
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I knew zero about Euro ball of that era - thanks for the run down it was awesome to read.
Try google search ESPN 30-for-30 documentary called 'Once Brothers', highly recommended. It's about that Yugo Basketball generation Chefo talked about. It focused on the 4 main guys: Toni, Drazen Petrovic, Vlade Divac, Dino Radja.