Basketball fans have known for years that Luka Doncic is special. We knew before the NBA Draft. We knew during his rookie season. We knew during his sophomore season. We knew last season. And we know now. Luka is flat-out special.
Not the type of special where you see an Instagram highlight and think to yourself “man, that guy is pretty special.” He’s the type of special that you only get to see a couple of times in your life — if you’re lucky. He’s the type of special that will linger in the minds of basketball fans for the next 50 years.
What makes him so special? It’s the combination of a lot of things. His ability to control an entire basketball game with his fingertips. His ability to make astronomically difficult basketball plays look easy. His ability to manipulate defenses with his eyes. His ability to always come through when it matters most, despite being one of the youngest stars in the world. What really pushes him into the top tier of special, though, is how normal he is.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen his game-winner over the Boston Celtics (the one from this season, not last season). But just in case, here it is:
LUKA GAME WINNER AT THE BUZZER. pic.twitter.com/hpIx3okt9T— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) November 7, 2021
After the game, I asked Luka about his thoughts while the ball was in the air. Was he watching with the same nerves and anticipation that us mere mortals were watching with? Or did he have that sixth sense that athletes often talk about where he knew the ball was going in as soon as he let it go? Here’s what Luka told me (all with a smile on his face):
“I don’t even know. What am I doing, you know? I don’t know how I feel when I shoot the ball. I just want it to go in. But I don’t know what I’m thinking about.”
Wait — Luka is just like me! When I shoot the ball in pick-up basketball, I also have no idea what I’m thinking. I, too, am just hoping it goes in. That’s not what I was expecting from someone as confident as Doncic.
Luka plays with that Mamba Mentality or Michael Jordan-esque confidence or LeBron James swagger or whatever you want to call it. But that’s not what he’s thinking during the play. He didn’t shoot that and think to himself “I know that’s going in — I’m Luka Doncic.” He had no idea what he was thinking. He just hoped the ball would find its way through the bottom of the bucket — like a normal human would.
How many people — in any professional sport — can make a play crazy enough to shake the galaxy, and then act so jovial?
You know how it is to watch little kids play basketball? When they score, they just can’t hold back their happiness. They make a shot and run back on defense smiling ear to ear. We’ve all either been that kid or seen that kid. That’s how Luka looks after he makes a stepback, buzzer-beater three to win an NBA game in front of 20,000 fans.
Despite being one of the best players to ever touch a basketball, Luka feels relatable to the average viewer on TV. He’s not chiseled with muscle. He doesn’t jump over guys with otherworldly athleticism. He doesn’t blow by defenders with lightning-quick speed. Sure, he’s a very tall human, but on TV, he’s relatable. And then after destroying the best athletes on the planet, he’s equally as relatable.
We didn’t need his shot over the Celtics to know how special Luka is. It’s been clear for a long, long time. But the greats always have a long list of moments like this one, and at 22 years old, Luka already has an impressive list. His jolly demeanor just makes every moment on that list even sweeter.
Here’s our lastest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.