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The music behind the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic Rookie of the Year tribute

NBA: 2019 NBA Awards Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday night, what fans had for months considered fait accompli became official and the NBA named Luka Doncic the 2018-2019 Rookie of the Year. Predictably, The Dallas Mavericks Twitter account had a highlight video at the ready and dispatched it as soon as word came down.

The video is a gorgeous repertoire of Luka being cruel to a series of NBA defenders. The falsetto refrain of the backing song is perfectly apt: “nothing has been this easy before.” It’s a declarative worthy of a rookie playing with a plucky temerity beyond his years. What people may not have known is that the Mavericks made the commendable decision to tap the local music scene for this moment, choosing a song – “Cinch” – by Smoke Paint, the members of whom have been writing and performing in DFW for over a decade across various acts.

I got in touch with the artists responsible – Daniel Markham, Tony Ferraro and Steve Phillips – to talk about what it was like to be the soundtrack to Luka’s ROTY victory.

MMB: How did this come about? Did you know someone over at the Mavs? Did you know they’d be using the song like that?

Tony: Yeah. A buddy of ours, [Mike Marshall], is on their production team, asked if he could use it for something special.

MMB: Did he ever say what the something special was or did Monday catch you off guard?

Tony: He told me what it was: “rookie of the year video for Luka.” Still caught me off guard. I didn’t realize how many people would see it.

Daniel: I had no idea. A friend texted me a link to the video. At first, I thought he had just discovered the song and thought it was cool. But then I was like “oh, dang!”

Steve: Same. It was a nice surprise.

MMB: As far as the song itself, I’m sure when you all wrote it, you didn’t have a Slovenian basketball player in mind. What do you think of the song being used like this?

Steve: I think the video compliments the song very well.

Tony: Yeah it sits on the images nicely. It’s technically Steve’s track we borrowed and put more noise on top of. Daniel and I wrote the lyrics.

Daniel: I think Steve is the real MVP here. That track he sent us was already too good.

Tony: ROTY Steve.

MMB: Is this pretty big exposure for you guys?

Daniel: I’d have to say yeah. I mean, we were on ESPN. I’ve never been on ESPN before.

Steve: What? Didn’t see that.

Tony: Me neither, yet.

Daniel: Maybe they just retweeted Dirk’s tweet.

MMB: Did you have a different character in mind when you were writing what is a kind of monologue? And are you amused that it’s Luka Doncic “singing” it now?

Daniel: I can’t remember any specifics other than we just wanted to write something kinda super sexy.

Tony: Originally it was Steve’s instrumental. Daniel and I listened to it over and over. I had been sitting on the title. Eventually we came up with lyrics about a character just walking and talking big and tough. No one in particular in mind at the time. Proud to lend to Mavs and Doncic.

Steve: I remember Tony told me they wrote something very “Prince-ish” and that got me real excited.

MMB: Any chance Smoke Paint becomes to the Dallas Mavericks what Pantera was to the Stars?

Tony: Hahaha, let’s hope so.

Steve: Holy shit that would be so rad.

Daniel: That would rule. I love Pantera.

MMB: Well from what I know of you guys, you each have about a dozen intense projects going on at once. Anything coming up that you want the people to know about?

Daniel: I have a solo album coming out eventually. I have a black metal album coming out. I’m going on tour.

Steve: I’ve been living in Houston for about a year and a half now, so I’m not part of any projects as of right now.

Tony: I am working on music. More at That’s pretty much it.

MMB: Well, Steve, I think Tony and Daniel would love it if you sent them more bangers they can use to get on ESPN.

Steve: Ha! I’ll get right on it.