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How ‘Luka magic’ happens

An oral history of Luka Dončić’s latest game-winner

Boston Celtics v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

For a rational person like me that tries to understand things based on data, facts, and logic, it’s really difficult to accept some things you just can’t explain. This is probably why the word “magic” has been used throughout history. To interpret things that we can’t explain by logic.

How did that happen? I don’t know, it’s just...magic.

Luka Dončić often defies logic on the basketball court. Naming some of the things he does ‘Luka magic’ almost seems, well, logical.

Even if we’ll never completely understand some of the stuff Luka does, we can still try to put some reason behind ‘Luka magic’. Here’s how the people who saw the latest example of Luka Magic Tuesday night against the Celtics interpreted it.

You’re born with ‘it’

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle: He’s a very unique player, a very unique person. The wiring of people like Luka Dončić, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, the guys that have this laser like focus in these’s difficult to explain how their mind and their brain works.

I’m not the only one who can’t logically explain it. Carlisle, who is much smarter than I am, can’t explain it as well. But it seems that for some people it’s just there. They are born with it.

And we know it when we see it.

You must want ‘it’

Luka Dončić: It was in Europe already. It was before in Euroleague too.

It doesn't happen on its own. You have to want it. You have to make it happen.

For Dončić, taking the last shot always came naturally. He always wanted it. When Shaquille O’Neal asked him after the game when did he start taking and making clutch shots, he said it was always there.

I know exactly what Dončič is talking about. I still remember watching a Euroleague game. It was March 18, 2018 and Euroleague powerhouse Real Madrid played an important Euroleague game against Serbian champion Red Star Belgrade.

Real Madrid needed the win to make it to the Euroleague Final Four tournament. Dončić, who turned 19 a month before, was on a team full of veterans. Yet, for his coach Pablo Laso, there wasn’t any doubt who would take the last shot in front of the craziest basketball fans in Europe. Laso knew Dončić had ‘it’.

You shouldn’t be afraid if ‘it’ fails

NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan: I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Doncic: Sometimes you’re gonna miss it, like the last game against Portland, and sometimes you’re gonna make it.

Even for the best players, clutch ‘magic’ doesn’t always happen. However, what distinguishes them from the rest is, they are not afraid of failure. In his young NBA career, Dončić had moments when ‘Luka magic’ simply wasn’t there. After some great clutch moments in his rookie season, Dončić was bad in the clutch last season. The Mavericks were one of the worst teams in the clutch. Dončić shot 36% from the floor and 17% from the three-point line in the last five minutes of close games last season.

But failure never prevented him from trying. When it mattered the most, with the game on the line in the Playoffs, his terrible clutch three-point record didn’t stop Dončić to hoist this shot. The rest is history.

‘It’ happens in slow motion

Dončić: For me, it’s like playing chess. You gotta take your time and see the moves.

One thing most greats tell when explaining how they make their clutch ‘magic’ happen is, that the game just slows down for them. They are never fazed by the moment, they cherish it. This is all they trained for, for moments like this when ‘it’ can happen. Carlisle called it laser-like focus, for Dončić it’s like slow-motion chess.

You know when ‘it’ happens

If you’re still not convinced ‘Luka magic’ exists, ask the Celtics’ broadcast crew. They saw‘it’ yesterday. They couldn’t explain it. But you know what word we use when we can’t explain things by logic.