clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Failure is the first step on the path to success

Luka Doncic has never had to level up to overcome a failure, because he has never failed

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Luka Doncic has been stunningly successful throughout his basketball life. For all of the talk of Victor Wembenyama as potentially the best prospect in the history of the NBA, Doncic was more successful at a higher level during his European career. Doncic won Eurobasket and the Euroleague prior to coming to the NBA.

Once in the NBA, Doncic won the rookie of the year award while being given the “keys to the offense” from Coach Rick Carlisle. He then had his first taste of NBA playoff basketball in his sophomore season. The Dallas Mavericks lost in the first round against the then title favorite Los Angeles Clippers, but Doncic played all time great playoff performer Kawhi Leonard to a virtual draw while averaging 31 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists.

Doncic returned the following season and again met the Clippers in the playoffs. The Clippers had one of the greatest collection of wing defenders in NBA history with Leonard, Paul George, Marcus Morris and Patrick Beverly. None could even slow Doncic as he put up an outrageous 35.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 10.3 assists per game. The Mavericks still came up short in the first round.

Doncic then finally experienced his first playoff team success in his fourth season. The Mavericks made the Western Conference Finals before they were dispatched by the eventual NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. Even though the Mavericks were humbled, Doncic led the series in scoring at 32 points per game.

All of these successful seasons led to Doncic showing up to the next season a little more round and taking a little longer to play himself into shape. Doncic’s fitness has become a major talking point in NBA circles for years now. But it is important to remember that his success is still overwhelming. Michael Jordan never won a playoff series until his age 24 season. Doncic just completed his age 23 season.

That age 23 season was the first time Doncic has truly experienced failure. Doncic was again individually breathtaking, but the Mavericks embarrassingly did not make the playoffs or play-in. The Mavericks now have a path to acquiring talent whether they use the pick or use it as a trade asset. If the Mavericks retain Kyrie Irving, they have the type of elite offensive talent which can amplify Doncic by preventing defenses from loading up on him while also slightly lessening his creative burden.

These things create an opportunity for Doncic but in the words of Billy Zane from Titanic, “A real man makes his own luck.” Doncic appears to be using this failure of a season as motivation. There have been reports that he has hired a nutritionist. The sightings of Doncic this season have involved running stairs and looking noticeably slimmer rather than smoking a hookah and looking “thicc.”

The athlete coming into a season in “the best shape of their life” story is done hundreds of times each season by a multitude of people. There isn’t enough evidence for that yet. But Doncic is fiercely proud. He is among the best offensive engines in the history of the sport. He is watching one of his very good friends, who changed his game by becoming immaculately conditioned after facing his own conditioning questions, dominate the sport during the playoffs in a way which is virtually unprecedented.

Improved fitness will help Doncic in a variety of ways. It will help his defense and even perhaps help him prevent the nagging injuries which have become an issue in his young career. It could also help with his propensity to stagnate late in games offensively.

Every great hero’s journey involves some form of failure. Dirk Nowitzki had the 2006 finals and the 2007 first round before eventually finding ultimate glory in 2011. Doncic experienced his greatest basketball failure last season. That is ok, because that failure will be the first step towards his greatest achievements in the years to come.