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Basketball is about feelings: What’s really keeping Luka Dončić in Dallas?

When you’re missing the team and community aspect of basketball, you’re missing one of the most important ingredients for success.

Denver Nuggets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

It seems like every time the Mavericks lose a game or two, Luka Dončić die-hard fans are halfway out the door, saying that Dallas have let him down, that it’s a matter of time before he’s out of there.

Because after all, they say, many Slovenians and European fans want him out, they want him on a team where he can win a title. That’s unlikely to happen in Dallas — and Luka cares what his Slovenian fans think, they say.

But hold on a minute.

Have you even met Luka Dončić? I don’t mean in person, but have you been following his career and his time in Dallas?

A player that’s as devoted to Dallas as Luka is, won’t just start planning his exit as soon as things look shaky. He has more than a fleeting friendship with Dallas. He has ownership in the developments of the team the last few years and he wants to win in Dallas.

But there’s more to this. Besides signing a supermax extension last year that kicks in this season through 2027 (editor’s note: he has a player option in the last year), loyalty and devotion to a team or a club is an important aspect of basketball that some people seem to miss.

So this seems like a great opportunity to remind everyone that NBA players and even superstars are human beings, who care about other people and their surroundings.

If you take a look at Luka’s basketball upbringing in Slovenia, Europe, and Real Madrid, it all points in one direction. In Europe, your club is more often a place you take pride in staying with and leading to a championship. Jumping from club to club is not as common as in the NBA, in my estimation. The idea that stars stay and build a team, turning it into a winning team is much more prevalent. You see this with Luka, he’s very dedicated to Real Madrid still, watches the games and roots for them. That’s his team, his friends, his community.

And if you look at the best European players in the NBA, the superstars dominating the league at this point, you don’t see them jumping from team to team either. You see them stay loyal to and believe in building their own team. Giannis Antetokounmpo with the Bucks, Nikola Jokic with the Nuggets and let’s not forget our own hometown hero, Dirk Nowitzki.

Obviously some American NBA players feel the same way. Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry come to mind.

There’s something about winning with your team. Putting a group of stars together with the purpose of getting a ring doesn’t give the same feeling of accomplishment as building a team over time and eventually winning with them.

For the die-hard Luka fans and Luka stans to claim that Luka is on his way out of the door every time something doesn’t go according to plan is alienating the rest of the fan base, who are actually Dallas Mavericks fans. Some have followed the team way before it had a Slovenian superstar and even before the Slovenian superstar existed.

I happen to be European myself, not Slovenian, but I see Luka Dončić as a representative of my part of the world too (just like I see Giannis, Jokic, Lauri and all the other talented European NBA players).

But I am also a team player. That means that I feel a sense of community for the whole team. I feel bad for Reggie Bullock during his shooting slump, I hope Maxi Kleber starts shooting like he’s playing Utah again and I high-five anyone who’ll high-five me, when Christian Wood takes it to the basket.

I love to hear that Spencer Dinwiddie is happier than ever on the Mavericks and I root for Frank Ntilikina and Josh Green to make a difference when they get minutes. I love when the guys show how much they like each other and I am the first to tout the awesome vibes.

It’s called a team for a reason, it’s not the Luka show — though I’ll admit it can look like it sometimes. But Luka Dončić can’t do this by himself. He clearly cares about his teammates and the people in Dallas.

And Luka Dončić never blames others for losses. He thinks he should be able to win with the guys he has. That’s the mentality of a winner.

When you miss the team aspect of basketball, you’re missing one of the most important ingredients. Camaraderie, friends he’s known since he arrived in the US 5 years ago - a teenager alone to figure things out.

Luka Dončić made a life in Dallas, he made friends with players he’s known since he moved there, and he committed to this city. He needs a team around him that he can trust. Steph Curry can’t do it alone and God knows LeBron James can’t.

And that may be their point. He needs better teammates. No one’s arguing against that.

But for now, he has a group of solid, loyal teammates, who he likes and respects and who overachieved last year. Who’s to say they can’t do it again?

And who’s to say the people matter so little to Luka that he’s ready to leave after a few years of not winning a title? Dirk didn’t. All his life he’s shown that loyalty and trust are very important to him. He has that in Dallas — so my bet is he’s not in a hurry to get out of there. He’s not giving up on his team and adopted city. And neither should you.

Find last week’s Mavericks Feelings here.