For a long damn time, most of my basketball fandom was devoted to protecting and defending Dirk Nowitzki from all the brain dead lizards who derided him for being too soft or not clutch.
This was a stranger thing to do back in the 2000s, before Twitter existed and newspapers were still the best place for me to get NBA scores since our family shared one computer. The bombardment of Dirk slander wasn’t as readily accessible then as it would have been now, but it was still a commitment.
If you weren’t around during that time, it’s hard to think about now — Dirk wasn’t universally beloved. Hell, some wanted to trade him and local writers and radio hosts in the Dallas-area spared back and forth over whether the Mavs could win a title with Dirk as their best player. Combine that with Dirk’s relative desire to stay out of the spotlight and that led to a lot of defending for us Dirk-stans. As great as Dirk was, he never started an All-Star game. He wasn’t in a bunch of commercials. This is all fine! It just made it that much harder to endure some of the national conversation around him at the time.
Luka Doncic does not have this problem. He’s 20-years-old and already leading the pack for fan votes in the All-Star game. Luka is very popular, in a way Dirk never really was until his career wound down. This is...strange.
As someone that writes about the team and as someone that’s been a fan of the team for even longer, it’s a new feeling. For the past year, I’ve been bombarded by thoughtful Luka articles, glowing podcasts and general envy from people that follow teams that passed on Doncic in the 2018 draft. I’m used to logging on and going, “now wait a minute,” when defending my team’s franchise guy. Now I’m logging on and saying, “Yes, you’re all correct.” That’s weird and there’s nothing you can say to me that’ll make me not feel that!
For years, for actual decades, I’ve had to go to war defending Dirk as one of the best players in the NBA. Dirk vs. KG split my soul like a horcrux. Now, I really don’t have to. Is this what it’s like to have been a LeBron fan? Or a Shaq fan? A Tim Duncan fan? This is nice. It’s way sunnier over here.
At this point, I have to just live in the moment and love the time in the sun. With the way social media churns through athletes, Luka’s time as the villain will be here soon enough. Hell, if you spend enough time on Twitter, you’ve already seen it. In a few years, I’ll be beating people to death with tire irons anytime they compare Luka to James Harden. But that day is not today. Today, I can rest.