Here’s to Croatian Sensations!

My sisters-in-law Sharon and Donna have become both the keepers and the sharers of Biskupic family history.

So, we were touched but not surprised last week to receive an unsolicited package from Sharon that contained a Toni Kukoc jersey we once gave my father-in-law for Christmas. And I was likewise touched but not surprised to receive a text from Donna with the exact vintage photo I had somewhat vaguely described, three minutes after I requested it.

So, brought to you courtesy of my sweet sisters-in-law, please enjoy this post celebrating men I will admire for as long as I live:

My father in-law Vince Biskupic carried himself with a dignity he could not help, tucked it in every morning with his pocket square and wore it starched like the two fresh dress shirts he buttoned up every day, one for daytime and one for evening meetings. Still, every time we gave him a casual jersey or goofy shirt, he put it on proudly when he knew he would be seeing us. I think he bought himself a pair of jeans just so he could have something on hand to pair with our gifts.

In 1998, we gave him a Toni Kukoc jersey, marking the final season of the 6-11 Croatian Sensation’s storied tenure as a player for the Chicago Bulls.

In addition to their height (Grandpa Vince stood 6-4) and love of family, Toni Kukoc and Vince Biskupic shared a lot of other interests. Kukoc, one of the first European basketball stars to cross the pond and play for the NBA, grew up in Split, just down the gorgeous Croatian coastline from Mala Mlaka, the village where so many Biskupics were born and raised.

He loved to watch Michael Jordan and the Bulls play (just like Grandpa Vince), and negotiated (something at which Grandpa Vince excelled) a contract that brought him to Chicago in 1993, just after the Bulls’ famous “threepeat” of the NBA Championship.

Kukoc retired as a player following his 15-year career, the last four spent in Milwaukee (Grandpa Vince grew up in Sheboygan, just north of Milwaukee).

Toni and his wife Renata still live in the house they purchased when he first came to Chicago and are raising their family in Highland Park, a suburb just north of there. Vince and his wife Mary Jane raised their nine kids in Chicago and then Naperville, a western suburb.

Here’s to Toni Kukoc, currently working as a special advisor to the Chicago Bulls, and to the other Croatian Sensation, Vince Biskupic, esq., a grandpa known as Mr. Be Careful, who left a legacy of love.

It’s amazing how good it feels to summon memories of good men.

How great is this picture? That’s our Charlie, Vinnie, Katherine and the Bulls-and-fun-loving Grandpa Vince.
It’s blurry and their eyes are closed but any picture of these two is automatically a gem. Note the collared shirt under the jersey and the always game Outlaw Mary Jane.
The 1998 Biskupic family Christmas card. Left to right are 11-year old Charlie (Luc Longley), three-month old Molly (Michael Jordan), nine-year old Katherine (Steve Kerr) and six-year old Vinnie (Toni Kukoc)

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