Sports

XXX ML

By Max Lemmon

STAFF WRITER

   Every so often, the sports world is blessed with a talent unlike anyone before them, someone who captivates every fan, analyst and journalist, dropping jaws night in and night out like it’s nothing. These generational talents are rare and few and far in between, and with an aging LeBron James, the National Basketball Association has been looking for their next poster child of greatness. Sure, there are the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo or Anthony Davis, who dominate at young ages, but neither has been able to lead a team effectively, by themselves, while inspiring awe in quite the same way as one Slovenian phenom.

   Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Luka Dončić, the N.B.A.’s next big thing. At 16, he made his professional debut for Real Madrid in the world’s second-best basketball league, the EuroLeague. At 18, he led his team to the 2018 EuroLeague championship also being named the league MVP. In a league full of grown men and NBA veterans, Dončić more than held his own while averaging 16 points, 4.5 assists and 5 rebounds a game. After accomplishing more than most basketball players ever will, Dončić declared for the draft at the ripe old age of 19.

   Picked third in the 2018 draft by the Mavericks, expectations were more than high for Dončić coming into his rookie year. He was given the keys to the Dallas offense and was thrust straight into the spotlight. During his rookie year, he averaged 21 points, 6 assists and 8 rebounds a game, becoming one of only five players to average more than 20, 5 and 5 during their rookie years. He thus, joined some very elite company, such as LeBron James and Michael Jordan. He became the second-youngest player to record a triple-double at 19 years and 327 days old, and the league’s only teenager to ever record one with 30 points, and the only teenager with multiple triple-doubles. He barely missed out on the all-star game, coming in at second in fan voting, and unanimously made the All-Rookie First Team. While the Mavericks won only 24 games that season, Dončić had done more than enough to secure the 2018 Rookie of the Year award.

   Now, in the 2019-20 season, Dončić’s game has risen to new heights, with averages reminiscent of 2017 M.V.P. Russell Westbrook, with 29 points, 9 assists, and 10 rebounds a game so far. He is leading the NBA this season in triple doubles with 12 so far, and unlike last year, the Mavericks are winning games under the leadership of Dončić. With a record of 27-15, the Mavs are fifth in a very competitive western conference, only 2 games behind the third and fourth seed, and seven behind first. Dončić is now top five in the M.V.P. race, an unprecedented jump from only being a rookie last year with zero votes. He is also first in all-star voting and will most likely be a captain.

   Not only are his numbers absolutely amazing, but Dončić’s highlight reel is already more stacked with jaw-dropping plays than the vast majority of NBA vets. Since day one of his career, Dončić has been posterizing defenders, hitting stepback threes in players’ faces, breaking ankles, dishing out Magic Johnson-like assists, showcasing an IQ reminiscent of a prime Manu Ginobili, and hitting game winner after game winner. The kid can’t even buy alcohol yet but is consistently schooling the NBA’s best point guards and silencing crowds. 

   Of course, it is way too early to draw any conclusions about Dončić’s future, as he is only 20, but with a season and a half of NBA basketball under his belt, Dončić is the one to watch in the coming seasons. He has been playing professionally since he was 16, when most of his peers were coming off the bench on Junior Varsity. Consistently schooling players more than twice his age since grade school, Dončić has proved that he has what it takes to consistently dominate at the highest level. As he continues to break record after record, there is no denying that the NBA has something special on their hands. The time is now to jump on the Dončić bandwagon because it is only up from here, it seems.

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