“With the 3rd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks select Luka Dončić from Ljubljana, Slovenia.” (Adam Silver, June 21, 2018). This sentence should be inscribed on monuments across Dallas. A junior high school in Dallas should bear this entire sentence as its name, the whole sentence.
“The heir apparent to the Dallas Mavericks franchise” was another sentence tossed around by draft analysts after the Mavericks and the Atlanta Hawks completed their trade.
Luka’s impact has been that profound.
Need proof? Here’s a running thread (aptly titled “Luka Dončić is good”) of Luka’s play so far in his rookie year, compiled by Mavericks writer and digital content reporter, Bobby Karalla. Or how about the fact that Luka has three consecutive Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards. Note: the 2018-2019 season is three months in.
Still need more proof? Luka is the second youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. Oh, and he’s also the first NBA teenager to notch a 30-point triple-double. He also made some much-deserved noise in the fan vote for All-Star 2019.
We know what Mavs fans think of Luka. But I wanted to see what some slightly less biased media folks thought about Luka. I asked seven quick questions to a virtual panel of a few sports media friends to see if the hype is as real as we all think it is.
Jasmine Watkins — a social media and digital content superstar — Jasmine is a Lakers fan, but I don’t hold that against her because she has a knack for posting old school sports videos that remind me of my youth.
Master Tesfatsion — Senior Writer, Bleacher Report — Master is a proud Irving, TX native who has covered a myriad of sports. Master is the sharpest dressed media member and a firm believer in “More Luka Content” and “More Dirk Content” — so, a natural member of this panel.
Eddie Maisonet, III — Editor, ESPN and founder of The Sports Fan Journal — Eddie brings years of NBA analysis and a penchant for calling it like it is, a trait of his I have valued for a long time.
Meredith Minkow — Social Media Programmer — Meredith has previous stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx, she’s passionate about basketball and takes dope photos.
1. Do you know how old Luka Dončić is?
JW - “I want to say 19 but I’d check his birth certificate with the way he’s been playing.”
MT - “Yes. And in my 27 years on this miserable planet, I’ve never seen a 19-year-old play basketball quite like Luka.”
EM - “I believe he’s old enough to drink in a lot of countries, just not here in America.”
MM - “Sir Luka is 19 years young.”
2. Describe Luka’s game in 7 words or less.
EM - “Cristiano Ronaldo but taller and can hoop.”
MT - “Wow the Mavs will be good again.”
MM - “His game is effortless and ridiculous.”
JW - “Versatile.”
3. How do you feel about his number being #77?
MT - “It’s selling him short. He’s the Second Coming. Put another 7 on that jersey.”
JW - “This guy could make any number look good.”
MM - “I like the new age of players picking ridiculous numbers. Shoutout Taj Gibson.”
EM - “I’m generally against ugly hoop numbers but #77 works because I’m here for players wearing unique individual numbers. Deandre Ayton wears #22 and I can’t think of a great big man who wears #22. Same with Donovan Mitchell wearing #45 (baseball Michael Jordan doesn’t count). 40 years from now the #77 will be a common occurrence in the NBA.”
4. What do you think Luka’s ceiling will be when his career is all said and done?
MM - “Maybe Luka has already shown a lot of his moves, but being a Euroleague MVP at 19 could be seen as Luka being close to his peak.”
JW - “I never like putting a ceiling on a player and with Luka already exceeding what I thought he would be so far, the sky really is the limit for him.”
EM - “Best foreign-born player of all-time only behind Hakeem.”
MT - “One of the two greatest players of all time. It’ll be between him and Bronny Jr.”
5. Describe Luka’s step back move in 7 words or less.
EM - “Gentrified version of James Harden’s signature move.” [Note: I need to confess that I laughed a bit too hard at this response. This is why I keep Eddie around.]
MM - “James Harden-esque without the travel. Ridiculous.”
MT - *Quavo adlib voice* SPLASH (“Thanks, Atlanta for giving us Luka”)
JW - “My ankles are in danger just watching.”
6. What was your biggest accomplishment at 19?
MT - “I frequently stole rolls of toilet paper from my journalism school’s bathroom.” [Note: whom amongst us, am I right?]
JW - “Probably passing my classes while making sure not to gain the freshman 15. So Luka and I are pretty much neck and neck.”
MM - “At 19, I figured out how to cook the perfect omelette.” [Note: I didn’t have the heart to tell Meredith that the notion of a “perfect omelette” is a social construct, nothing more.]
EM - “I won third place at an official EA Sports Madden tournament.”
7. What, in your opinion, can Luka improve on as his career progresses?
MM - “Speed? Athleticism? I don’t know, man. He’s really good.”
JW - “Maybe a little bit quicker? It’s just nitpicking at this point because he’s already doing things I didn’t think he would be able to so any improvement will be dangerous to the rest of the league.”
EM - “He really needs to start dunking on people. Because then and only then will the opposition truly know they’re doomed.”
MT - “We need More Luka Content.”
Obviously, it’s too early to cement the legend of Luka Dončić. But if his first three months are a window into what awaits NBA fans (not just Dallas Mavericks fans), this promises to be a fun ride.
But only one person can chart his course. It has been and will always be all about Luka.
(Thanks to our virtual panel members. Please follow them and keep up with their content — they truly do amazing work in their respective areas.)