Welcome to the Luka Doncic show

By Klyde Manansala | Photo from  Twitter

Growing up in a basketball-crazy household, I’ve always immersed myself in NBA highlight reels—most of the time binging on Carmelo Anthony’s jab step and Kobe Bryant’s shoulder fakes. That sense of enjoyment in watching compilations of highlights is addictive, but all good things come to an end. Anthony looks like he’s off the books while Bryant dropped the mic two years ago.

The good thing though is we’ll never run out of new highlights fodder. There’s Stephen Curry’s unlimited range, LeBron James’ rim-rocking dunks, Kyrie Irving’s killer crossovers. All three have firmly cemented their place in the league for the past decade.

Then there’s this white and thicc kid named Luka Doncic.

Make no mistake about it, this is not another one of those articles explaining why he is the clear front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award. Much has been said about him because first he’s easily proved his doubters wrong and second it’s the truth.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Doncic is on a whole different level.

It’s crazy how things can quickly change in a blink of an eye. A few months ago, his name was only known to European basketball fans. When I first heard of him, my only choice was to watch YouTube compilations of his developing game way back in 2012. As the NBA draft loomed, I reviewed his Real Madrid mixtapes over and over again. I even asked myself whether he’ll blend into the NBA’s fast pace or he’s just going to be another overhyped foreigner who’ll turn out to be a bust come the season.

Back in 2013, he was this lanky, baby-faced baller who’s dominating youth tournaments in Italy. He was already threading all kinds of needle and throwing outlet passes like he’s done it all his life:

Those step backs, dimes, floaters, and game-winners have long been part of the Luka Doncic show. He delivers a different kind of appeal to the game that makes him so fun to watch. His mixtapes weren’t on repeat in my laptop for the sake of figuring out his NBA survival. I wasn’t trying to find holes in his games, I was just fascinated by his uniqueness and unselfishness and I didn’t want to admit it at the time because I was one of those guys who was unsure of him—and I pity myself for that.

Months later, that 19-year-old Slovenian kid is now being regularly featured in the House of Highlights with the same set of skills being celebrated by millions of fans today. More importantly, not just by Europeans, but also by the whole world. Doncic was a star no one ever saw coming. No one was ready, not even the NBA.

How could he not be the first pick? And how could the Hawks trade him?

But it isn’t the numbers that leave us in awe. It’s Doncic himself. Whether he’s a tall James Harden or a fat Curry (Yes, it’s an actual debate), Doncic is pulling off things we rarely see in someone of his size and stature.

Quite honestly, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a rookie play with so much ease, poise, and skills the past years. Rookies don’t usually unearth their potentials right off the bat, but Doncic quickly became a real game-changer for the Mavs. He’s provided so much impact, both on and off the court, that people are finally starting to acknowledge Dallas’ rise to relevance despite the imminent retirement of Dirk Nowitzki , who had been the cornerstone of their franchise for the past two decades.

Doncic looks like he’s used to winning games even with only just 13 victories in his NBA career. Twenty-five games in and he is averaging 18 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.1 steals in 32.4 minutes of play. Plus, he’s shooting an absurd 42.5 clip from the field. Moreover, he’s already on the top-40 scoring list this season.

“What’s more impressive is that it isn’t all just a show—Dallas has been on the winning track (15-11) and Doncic is an integral part of that early success

But it isn’t the numbers that leave us in awe. It’s Doncic himself. Whether he’s a tall James Harden or a fat Curry (Yes, it’s an actual debate), Doncic is pulling off things we rarely see in someone of his size and stature.

What’s more impressive is that it isn’t all just a show—Dallas has been on the winning track (15-11) and Doncic is an integral part of that early success. The Mavs roster isn’t deep, but they’ve been mowing down team after team all because they let Doncic be Doncic. Perhaps the best example for this could be the best game of the rookie so far, that time when he went on a personal 11-0 run in crunch time to beat the Houston Rockets. He single-handedly won the game for his team:

Doncic is a rookie star that has the intellect of a veteran. And I’m going to constantly remind you that he’s only 19 years old and already kicking ass out there.

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