Alejandro Panfil @AlePanfil
Becoming a sports star usually takes time, especially because it involves not only great stats but leadership. But 21-year-old Luka Doncic has showed that he was born a star and is already being compared to LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. In his second season he’s considered by many experts one of the top10 players in the NBA.
Despite his staggering stats, his genius floats above his numbers and every time he is asked about them he answers fretfully: “I don’t mind, but … it's just stats. I think every game is another stat. I don’t mind...I always say it’s more important to get a win”.
The Slovenian player did not become a leader and a great player in his rookie year in the NBA, but he had already shone playing for the European giant, Real Madrid. On 30th April 2015, in a game against Malaga, the play-by-play commentator enthusiastically announced: “People of the entire world, Luka Doncic is going to make his debut. This moment might be historic, the debut of Luka Doncic on the Liga Endesa. The 3rd youngest player who made his debut in this competition. 16 years old and two months, the youngest player ever to make his debut in Real Madrid. Let's see if he has the opportunity to touch the ball because this boy has magic”. He received a standing ovation and in less than a minute he made a field goal from beyond the three-point line and started a very promising career. It was as if basketball fans had been waiting for him to get in the court. “Wonder boy”, his moniker, was up to great things.
“My first contact with Doncic was in 2013, at a young tournament in Vitoria, where he played with the junior team of Real Madrid. They won the tournament and it was a boom in the media because we hadn't seen a player like that for a long time. Since that moment, I began to ask about him to know a little bit more about his background”, told DROB Collectibles Spanish basketball expert and reporter for Marca, Jesús Sánchez. “I learnt that he was born in Slovenia and he had started in the youth divisions of Olimpija Ljubljana. Also that his father had been a basketball player and his mother was a model”. As Sánchez describes him, Luka was born with basketball in his blood: “I remember very well when I found out that he used to fall asleep next to the court because he enjoyed the sound of the ball bouncing against the floor”.
After he made a triple when he received the first ball in his first match in his professional career with Real Madrid, he “became the leader of the team with just 17 years old. It was a phenomenon of European basketball and almost the world”, said Sánchez remembering that day. Since then, he won every title the Real Madrid fought for: 3 ACB Leagues, Copa del Rey, 1 Euro league and 1 Intercontinental Cup. And of course, during his period in the Spanish capital, he logged very important individual awards: 2 Euro league Rising Star (2017, 2018) 1 Euro league MVP (2018), MVP of the Euro league Final Four (2018), MVP of the ACB League regular season (2018), Twice best young player of the league ACB (2017, 2018) and he was three times part of the ACB Young Ideal Quintet (2016, 2017, 2018).
But with Doncic strengths and skills he was not going to stay in Europe for a very long time. The best league in the basketball world soon took notice of “Wonder boy”. During his rookie season in 2018 in the NBA, playing for the Dallas Mavericks, Doncic averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6 assists per game and became the only player in NBA history to get two triple-doubles under the age of 20, the youngest player in NBA history to make a 30-point triple-double at 19 years and 333 days, the first and only player (to date) in NBA history to score a 35-point triple-double in 25 minutes or less and established 19 triple-doubles before age 21. There’s more: Best rookie quintet in NBA, NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA All-Star and part of the best quintet in the current NBA Bubble. He is also the player with the best scoring in a playoff debut with 42 points, the fourth player to score 40 points in the playoffs with 21, being the other three giants Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Tracy McGrady. And recently became the 3rd player in postseason history with 40+ points, 15+ rebounds and 10+ assistances.
“He’s doing fantastic things in the NBA and I think there is a player like him in a million, but what I like most is his capacity to take advantage in every move in the game, scoring himself or assisting a teammate, because he reads the game as if he were 50 years old, and he’s just 21”, added Sánchez about his amazing present with Dallas Mavericks.
Dennis Rodman once said that Manu Ginobili’s most outstanding virtue was his determination to win. And that’s an asset Doncic has plenty of and that leaves him no time to care about stats. Above all, his aim is simply winning games: “He always says that Real Madrid taught him that the only thing that matters is victory. And that means two things: intolerance of defeat and doing whatever it takes to win; regardless of the individual performance the important aim is the collective achievement”.
While the world is talking about his stats, Luka is a giant designed to win.