“Wonder Boy” Doncic is a Slovenian professional basketball player drafted in 2018. Born in Ljubljana Slovenia, Luka started playing the game of basketball at the age of 8 and practiced with the Olimpja’s under-14 youth team. He could not join the youth team due to league rules so he would settle with the club’s under-12 selection team. His talents would soon be taken to Real Madrid where he signed a five-year contract to play for their under-16 team.
“I’d play a lot of video games with my friends, some coffee you know, sometimes we go to the cinema and play bowling,” says Luka when talking about the city of Madrid.
Doncic would then go on to acquire 2 MVPs in the under-16 and 18 teams. Luka maked history at 16 years old becoming the youngest player ever to play for real Madrid. Three years later he would apply for the 2018 NBA draft where Atlanta would take him as the third pick. They would soon trade Luka to the Mavericks for a fifth overall pick in the next draft.
Of course this would lead one to think, "How good is he?"
Since joining the league Luka already made his mark by earning a back-to-back All-NBA First Team honors and became the rookie of the year in 2019. At 20 years old he became the youngest european-born player to start in an All-Star Game. Doncic also earned the 2019-2020 NBA Most Improved Player Award and would became the youngest player in NBA history to lead the league in triple doubles.
He’s doing it, but he doesn’t know he’s doing it, if you get what I’m saying. He’s still a baby. He’s got so much that he’s going to grow… it’s going to be scary.
During the 7th game of the 2021 playoffs against the La Clippers, Luka dropped an astounding 46 points on a two time defensive player of the year Kawahi Leonard and a 2018-2019 defensive team of the year Paul George. “He did everything… shooting very efficiently from three… off the dribble shots you know just doing it all for his team he’s a great player playing at his own pace and making it look easy out there.” Kawhi Leonard said after game 7. Statistically Luka is also the best in his draft averaging 21 points, 6 assists, 7.8 rebounds and 1 steal per game just his rookie year. Compared to the 2021 season where he averaged 27 points, 8.6 assists, and 8 rebounds. This maked him hands down the most valued player in the Mavericks since Dirk Nowitzki. “He seems like he’s been playing pro since he’s 10 years old the way he pretty much carries himself… he wants the ball he wants to make decisions with the ball he’s a great great passer for his size for his age...” answers Dirk when asked about his teammate Luka.
Both European players with Dirk Nowitzki having a ring in the 2011 finals, opens a new conversation which is, “Is international basketball overlooked?” In this year's Olympics, the U.S. experienced two huge surprises. Team USA’s professional basketball team had lost two exhibition matches back-to-back. Of course it seemed too big of a deal until one considers the last time they’ve lost which was in 2004, having a record of 54-1 in exhibition games since 1992. “It’s easier to score in the NBA than in Europe.” Luka said.
Basketball internationally is drastically different compared to the basketball we as Americans know. Bumping is allowed overseas to keep offensive players in check and to keep position. This however is not allowed in today's NBA and would result in a foul which a lot of players take advantage of. In a sense this gave players on the defensive end a lot more freedom with what they do with their hands without being plagued with fouls and calls.
3 second violation calls are also out of the game. Offensive players can stay in the paint for however long they would like to, which would give European players another variable to juggle when playing the game of basketball. This would lead to the team developing different means of defenses and organization to keep big men out of the paint which is not really a nowaday problem for the NBA.
“I just think European players are just way more skillful,” says the late Kobe Bryant in a 2015 interview. “They are taught the game the right way at an early age… They’re more skillful. It’s something we really have to fix. We really have to address that. We have to teach our kids to play the right way.”