One of my favorite things to do is to imagine obscure scenarios involving my favorite athletes. I imagine (former Texas Rangers third baseman) Adrian Beltre shopping at Whole Foods examining a cucumber and for a brief, fleeting moment, he can’t tell if it’s a cucumber or a zucchini. Or, I imagine Lakers great LeBron James — a Nike athlete who ostensibly receives new apparel and shoes everyday — searching his entire mansion for a sock (one sock) that’s gone missing. Sometimes, I imagine Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith tackling a to-do list at his house while grumbling about having to tackle a to-do list at his house.
Pro athletes, they’re just like us.
So yeah, I enjoy daydreaming about athletes in really boring, mundane situations. And, to be honest, I really enjoy this quirk.
With that as a backdrop, let’s talk about my latest scenario, one involving two Dallas legends — Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic. Ever since I saw this picture online of Dirk and Luka warming up before a game, the seed for this scenario was planted. Downtime during the holidays helped to nurture the seed into a healthy plant.
Just in case it hasn’t been made clear, the following scenario is a hypothetical, an imaginary (but delightful) occurrence.
DECEMBER 26, 2018: Pregame
The New Orleans Pelicans are in town. They’ve lost four consecutive games, the Mavericks have dropped six consecutive. A losing streak will be broken tonight.
The American Airlines Center is buzzing with activity. The last time Dallas had snow on Christmas Day was in 2012. It’s currently in the 60s in Dallas, the AAC staff know this mild weather means it’s going to be a packed house tonight.
Mavericks players are slowly trickling into the AAC. Luka Doncic is already at his locker as Dirk Nowitzki makes his way over to check up on the rookie phenom.
“Luuuuuka!”, bellows 13-time NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki.
Doncic smiles a sheepish smile. He’s 19 years old, a rookie in the NBA with 31 career games under his belt coming in to this matchup tonight, but he’s also a 19 year old kid who’s watched 40 year old Dirk play for as long as he can remember. Luka is still in awe, so the smile is sheepish.
LUKA: “Hi, Dirk!”
DIRK: “How was the Christmas Day off, rook?”
LUKA [voice cracking a bit]: “Really good, it was really good. Very good.” [Luka tends to repeat himself when he’s around Dirk]
DIRK [suit off, donning sweats]: “Your mind right for this game, rook?”
LUKA: “Oh yeah, tonight we taste victory again!” [Luka realizes he said this a bit too loud. Talking to Dirk does this to him]
DIRK: “Easy there, take it easy, rook.”
LUKA [rummaging in his locker]: “I’m just ready to win.” [continues rummaging]
DIRK: “Lose something?”
LUKA: “I just wanted find the perfect shoes, you know?” [Dirk notices Luka has 22 pairs of shoes in his locker]
DIRK: “Too many shoes, too many choices, rook. Simplify your locker, you’ll simply the process.”
[Luka recoils in terror at the thought of having to jettison part of his collection of game shoes and changes the subject]
LUKA: “Did you eat well?”
DIRK: “Oh yeaaah! We threw down at the crib.”
LUKA: “We ate some takeout and—”
DIRK: “Takeout? On Christmas Day?! No, that won’t do.” [Dirk grabs his phone and types a text message]
LUKA: “It’s ok, we were too busy with Fortnite...” [Luka sees that Dirk doesn’t care about Fortnite]
DIRK: “I have some food coming here for you — it’s leftovers from our house. Eat that and you’ll ball tonight.”
LUKA: “Oh, you don’t have to—” [Dirk glares at him. The decision has been made]
— [Dirk and Luka head to the trainers to get their ankles taped up] —
DIRK: “Rook! Your food is here.” [Dirk hands over a to-go plate covered in tin foil]
LUKA [staring at the tin foil]: “Thank you, thank you.”
DIRK: “You know the great thing about tin foil, rook?” [Luka shakes his head] “Well, rook, the tin foil may appear to be uneven and shaky on the outside, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the good stuff underneath, right?”
[Luka unveils the foil to reveal a hot plate full of honey-baked ham, collard greens, yams, and dinner rolls]
DIRK: “Eat up, rook. Remember, the foil is you, you know. You're a rook, you’re uneven at times and shaky sometimes, but you have the good stuff underneath, inside here [Dirk taps Luka’s heart].”
The Mavericks went on to snap their six-game losing streak with a 122-119 win over the Pelicans, while Doncic came tantalizingly close to recording his first triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds, and 10 assists. Luka was one rebound away from becoming the youngest NBA player to ever notch a triple-double.
The Dirk and Luka conversation is hypothetical, but I like to think Dirk — who’s NBA career is older than Luka — makes sure Luka is eating regularly and imparts a morsel of wisdom to Luka before each game.
It wasn’t that long ago that a young European Mavericks player was eating food prepared by team chefs during the holidays. It took time for that young European player to find his way in the NBA, and eventually discovered how to keep the love for this game and this franchise simmering just underneath.
Maybe in 20 years, Luka will be bringing a new Mavericks rookie phenom a to-go plate wrapped with tin foil.
“Eat up, rook”, Luka will say. “You know the great thing about tin foil, rook?”