Out of context, the story of an NBA player pouring alcohol on a father holding his young son could be considered disastrous. But if that father is Ivica Dukan, his son is Duje, the NBA player is Scottie Pippen, and the context is that they were in the Chicago Bulls' locker room celebrating a world championship with champagne, well then, the only thing it could be considered is awesome.
"That was one of my favorite moments," says Duje Dukan, now a forward at Wisconsin. "It was after the fifth or sixth Bulls title and the team was celebrating. Scottie was pouring champagne on everyone and he came over to us. I tried to hold him off, but he dumped it on us."
Duje was only 5 or 6 years old at the time. He was in the locker room because his father, Ivica, is the Supervisor of European Scouting for the Bulls, a job he began almost 20 years ago, fresh off a 14-year pro basketball career that spanned England, Croatia, France and Switzerland.
The elder Dukan met the Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause at the European Championships in the early 1990s and that introduction eventually led to a job offer, which brought Dukan to Chicago with his young family.
"Duje grew up next to the Bulls’ practice facility," Ivica says. "Our house is two minutes from there. When I would come home from work, I never had to ask my wife where Duje was. I knew he was at the facility working out or practicing. Every night he’d go and play. He lived and breathed basketball as he grew up."
"When I was really little I'd go to Bulls practices and I’d see my dad interacting with Jordan and Pippen on a daily basis," Duje says. "I remember seeing how wrapped up he was in all of it. I was so young it was just a regular thing, but as I got older, I started to realize who Jordan and all of those guys really were. That's when I knew what an amazing opportunity it was."
As soon as Duje was old enough he became a ball boy for the Bulls organization, where he sat right behind the bench for most games. Every time someone subbed in or out he would take their warm-ups or give them a towel or get water. When the game was over, he was in charge of getting food or ice or whatever the players needed.
The bonus to being around the team so much was that he also got to be around his dad all the time too.
"Spending time in the gym together is where our game really evolved," he said. "I know it's a dream come true for him and even though he has to travel for work, he has been able to come to most of my home games at Wisconsin this year."
Then again, his dad is a scout, which means he can sometimes mix business with pleasure.
"I have so many good memories of watching him play," Ivica says. "When I watched him play internationally for Croatia, the country he was born in, that was special. He was also selected for a game with the top high school athletes in the world and I was there scouting, but also watching my son. That was neat."
As far as advice, Duje says that his dad has been a huge help for him in terms of telling him what he needs to do to prepare for basketball at a high level. He says that his dad always tells him to not get too high with the highs or too low with the lows, and to practice hard because you're only as good as your last practice.
Ivica also invites his son to watch tape of players with similar abilities as his own.
"A few years ago, when Gordon Hayward was coming out of Butler, he said I should model my game after him," Duje says. "So I watch game film of him with the Utah Jazz to incorporate what he does into my game. He’s a versatile big man and I try to pick up what he does to be effective."
So the question remains, when did the basketball scout first know that his son had serious talent?
"To be honest, I realized it right away when he was a freshman in high school," Ivica says. "He didn’t make varsity and he came home and he was devastated. I couldn’t believe how devastated he was. Then he kept working on his game every day and he played JV and then he was playing so well that by mid-season they asked him to play varsity. Then he was starting varsity and I knew he had a chance to be really good."
Ivica says he is blessed that his son shares his love of basketball and that he is lucky. Of course, Duje growing up watching Michael Jordan play in person every day didn't hurt.
-- Jon Finkel is the author of The Dadvantage: Stay In Shape On No Sleep With No Time And No Equipment. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Finkel.