Taking the basketball world by storm over the last four years has Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic setting his sights on a whole new frontier - the virtual world.
Given the clever name Luk.AI and featuring a likeness surreally similar to the corporeal version, this is a fan relations gambit with tons of potential. Debuting on TikTok and responding on his dedicated Twitter page, virtual Luka is brandishing a wry wit in his first few hours of existence.
Asked what his plan is, Luk.AI responded, “my plan is to meet fans, make games, do trick shots and outsmart the real Luka. what is your plan??” Who wins a game of 1v1 with a real Luka? “luka wins at basketball. i win at everything else.” Ever wonder what the weather is like inside the internet? “it’s always a pleasant 77 degrees”. Something tells me these rimshot-worthy quips will flow all season from the Luk.AI feed.
So, what’s this all about? How much of this is actual AI and how much is a genius take on social media interaction? Is this truly an artificial intelligence engine that will one day invade the metaverse or simply a clever admin firing back Twitter replies to go along with fancy graphics?
Time will tell exactly how far and in how many directions this project influences the zeitgeist. While metaverse and blockchain technology are in their infancy, the possibility of playing with or against something very close to the actual Luka Doncic could take gaming to a tantalizing level of immersion.
Back in the real world, Luka landed #3 in the 2022 installment of ESPN Top 100 NBArank, rising up one spot from the #4 slot a year ago.
At 23, Doncic has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s in the top tier of superstars, a perennial All-NBA selection and an MVP candidate. He cemented that status last season, when he was the lone All-Star on a Dallas team that went to the West finals. Despite a calf strain that sidelined him for the first three games of the first round, Doncic led Dallas in points, rebounds and assists 10 times during the playoffs — the most ever in a single postseason, according to Elias Sports Bureau. He’s arguably the best offensive weapon in the NBA — a threat to win scoring and assists titles who picks apart defenses with a blend of power, skill and savvy. He’s also a ruthless competitor, as evidenced by his unforgettable Game 7 demolition of the top-seeded Suns, when he single-handedly matched Phoenix’s scoring total in the first half.
A third-place ranking feels right. A slow start to last season probably cost Luka serious MVP consideration and a chance to move past Jokic on this list. Moving into his fifth year, there is every reason to expect that last season’s deep playoff run will serve as a springboard to the best start of Luka’s career. A second or even first-place finish on next year’s list is very possible.