From the first moment Luka touched a basketball, he has been the best player. At 13, he was crowned MVP of the Under-13 Lido di Roma Tournament after dropping 54 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in the finals. His father Sasa Doncic, a six-time Slovenian domestic league all-star, had seen enough. Getting his son to develop at the highest level was a priority and due to poor infrastructure at the junior levels in Slovenia, Luka had to leave home.
Luka signed a long-term contract with Real Madrid at 13 through 2022 with multiple NBA escape clauses. Once he arrived in Madrid, Doncic was named MVP of 10 youth tournaments with Madrid’s juniors and led teams to seven championships. When he made his debut for the senior team at 16, it didn’t take long to realize that he’s of a different breed.
The game has always moved at a slower pace for him. His size combined with his subtle athleticism, the way he accelerates and decelerates, his ball-handling which is magnificent, and that shooting touch all packaged in a 6’8 frame makes for one hell of a player. The best part of his game is how he processes the game, his basketball IQ is unreal for such a young player. like JJ Barea said, “he’s one of those guys who’s born with it”.
Coming into the NBA, there was a lot of debate on how his skill would translate; his lack of elite athleticism made a lot of NBA teams skeptical. This wouldn’t be the first time for a European coming into the league with a lot of hype and not living up to it, but Luka was different and it took just one team in the Dallas Mavericks to believe in him by trading up to get him.
From the jump, he had everyone believing. You have to be truly special for NBA players to respect you as a rookie, and it didn’t take long to see that. From his teammates to opposing players, everyone knew, this kid is a gamer. His rookie year was so spectacular that heading into his second year he was already in MVP conversations.
There have been so many memorable moments in Luka’s young career in the NBA. From breaking all of the Dallas Mavericks records like being the youngest to 5000 points, to having the most triple-doubles, shattering Jason Kidd’s record. Kidd had 21 triple-doubles in 500 games with the Mavericks, while Doncic had 22 in 120 games. He’s been on the fast lane to the hall of fame.
Luka has a chance to go down as the defining player of his generation. But true NBA success comes from the postseason and in his second go-round in the playoffs, he’s been living up to the billing. The Los Angeles Clippers, the only team he’s played in the postseason so far, having drawn them last year as well, are thought to be the ideal team to take on Luka. They are an elite defensive team that possesses two premier wing defenders in Kawhi Leonard, a two-time DPOY, and Paul George an all-NBA defensive monster.
It hasn’t mattered in the slightest, Luka has been working them all series, winning both games in LA. The Clippers have no answer for him. Adjustments will be made by the Clippers for sure, but it just feels moot at this point especially if his teammates can capitalize by hitting shots with all the attention he garners.
For the truly great players, the ones that leave an indelible mark in our lives as NBA fans, it doesn’t take long to get the ball rolling. Luka has entered that realm, now we are on the journey to see where it all takes us.