Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen tormented Toni Kukoc at Dream Team Olympics

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It began on the bus ride to the arena. Actually, it began when the U.S. drew Croatia in the 1992 Olympic men’s basketball tournament. It got serious on the bus ride.

Michael Jordan spoke. The rest of the Dream Team was silent in its seats.

“He said, ‘Toni Kukoc, I got him tonight,'” Magic Johnson recalled in a 2012 NBC documentary. “‘He’s not going to get one basket on me.'”

That set the table for “the Kukoc game.”

In its second contest of the Olympics, the Dream Team spanked the silver-medal favorite Croatia 103-70. Kukoc, a 23-year-old considered the world’s best player outside of the NBA, received the brunt.

Jordan, and perhaps even more Scottie Pippen, ruthlessly defended their future Chicago Bulls teammate. They picked him up before halfcourt. They face-guarded him. They denied him the ball and, when he did receive it, made Kukoc regret it.

The result: the man known as the European Magic Johnson scored four points on 2-of-11 shooting, with seven turnovers.

“I’ve never seen that kind of defense before,” Kukoc said afterward, according to The New York Times, adding years later in Jack McCallum‘s 2012 book, “Dream Team,” “I thought that was the way they guarded everybody.”

It wasn’t. Jordan and Pippen, as another famous Chicago duo would have said, were on a mission.

Pippen hadn’t met Kukoc before Barcelona, but he despised him for years.

That’s because Kukoc was the sought-after prize of Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause. Krause and Bulls management had refused to renegotiate Pippen’s contract in part to save money to try and sign Kukoc, who wouldn’t leave his Italian club for Chicago until 1993.

“That’s like a father who has all his kids, and now he sees another kid that he loves more than he loves his own,” Jordan said in a 2012 NBA TV documentary. “So we were not playing against Toni Kukoc. We were playing against Jerry Krause in a Croatian uniform.”

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The Kukoc Game | MJ’s 1996 Olympic Choice

Jordan may not have been directly financially impacted by Krause’s pursuit of the kid from Split, but he of course sided with Pippen in the management battle. Krause, in trying to woo Kukoc from Italy, had asked Jordan to give the Croatian a phone call.

“I don’t speak no Yugoslavian,” Jordan told him, according to longtime Chicago Tribune Bulls beat writer Sam Smith.

Kukoc fared much better in the teams’ rematch in the gold-medal game.

Though the U.S. won 117-85, he had 16 points, nine assists, five rebounds and, reportedly and most of all, Jordan’s respect.

Still, the final word should be reserved for Pippen, who let his feelings be known after that first meeting.

“Toni Kukoc could be a good player. But he’s in the right league,” in Italy, Pippen reportedly quipped. “Now they can see he’s not ready for NBA competition.”

Kukoc would go on to become a key role player for the Bulls’ last three championships, earning NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 1996.

MORE: Michael Jordan’s note to Bobby Knight before 1984 Olympic final

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2020 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, bracket

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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