- Ever since he first dreamed of taking his talents to the NBA, Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic had one goal in mind: playing against his idol, NBA superstar and newly-minted Los Angeles Laker LeBron James.
- He did that and more Wednesday night, guarding James on the court and receiving his signed jersey after the game.
- Dallas dropped its fifth-straight contest with a heartbreaking, 114-113, loss to the Lakers, but Doncic didn’t let his team’s woes dull the memorable moment.
Life has been an absolute whirlwind for Slovenian basketball sensation and Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic this year. The 19-year-old led Real Madrid to its 34th Liga ACB title and 10th EuroLeague title, earning the EuroLeague Final Four MVP award and season MVP honors in both leagues.
One month after securing the EuroLeague title, Doncic was selected with the third overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks, but he was immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks for sharpshooter Trae Young. In August, ESPN predicted that he would be the 2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year, and two months later he began proving himself in the best basketball league in the world.
But ever since he first dreamed of taking his talents to the NBA, Doncic had one goal in mind: playing against his idol, NBA superstar and newly-minted Los Angeles Laker LeBron James.
He did that and more in Dallas’ heartbreaking one-point to the purple and gold Wednesday night. And after the game, Doncic walked straight to the home locker room and waited outside for a gift from King James himself.
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) November 1, 2018
A rep for James brought out a signed number 23 jersey that read “To: Luka D, God Bless and continue to #StriveForGreatness.”
He then posted a photo to his Instagram story:
How many rookies are getting this kind of respect from LeBron?
Luka Doncic is for real. pic.twitter.com/rTvdkfHGLQ
— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) November 1, 2018
“I always wanted his jersey,” Doncic told the media postgame, per ESPN. “It was something special to me.”
Doncic has proven himself more than worthy of his high draft pick through eight games of play in the NBA. The 6-foot-9 guard leads all rookies with 19.6 points per game, ranks second with 6.3 rebounds per contest, and trails just the top-two overall draft picks – Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley, respectively – with 4.4 rebounds per contest. With a 31 point, eight rebound performance against the San Antonio Spurs Monday, Doncic became the third-youngest player to score at least 30 points and eight rebounds in a single game. James and nine-time NBA All-Star Kevin Durant were the only two players to complete the feat at a younger age.
Despite his demonstrated success, Doncic struggled through the beginning of Wednesday night’s contest in Los Angeles. He scored just five points through the first three quarters, but a nine-point fourth-quarter performance helped spark a late comeback for the Mavericks. With his team trailing by two and 7.2 seconds left in the game, Doncic sank a baseline floater to tie the game.
— SportsDay Mavs (@dmn_mavericks) November 1, 2018
Dallas ultimately dropped its fifth-straight contest thanks to a foul from Wesley Matthews that sent James to the free-throw line, but Doncic wouldn’t let his team’s woes dull the memorable moment.
“It’s very special,” Doncic said. “I was waiting for this game, and it was very special to me.”