CHICAGO — Luka Doncic appears to be growing more comfortable as the center of the basketball world.
The Dallas Mavericks’ second-year guard was mobbed by media and rushed by fans Saturday at NBA All-Star Game Media Day at Wintrust Arena on the shores of Lake Michigan, and the signs that Doncic has entirely arrived as one of the game’s best were undeniable.
Peers had only one bit of advice: Get used to it.
“He’s a great all-around basketball player,” rookie No. 1 pick Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans said. “He’s a walking triple-double.”
LeBron James paid Doncic big respect by drafting him with his third pick — behind Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard — to Team LeBron despite being limited in the days before the game with a right ankle sprain. In fan voting, Doncic was second to only James — 6.2 million votes to 6.1 million.
“It’s something special,” Doncic said. “To be here in the All-Star game is something special. I always dream about it as a kid and now I’m here. It’s almost unreal. Maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I want to enjoy it.”
Doncic was sporting a Jordan Brand hoodie and will have his own shoe made. At media day he wore Jordan 4s with a black and royal blue colorway and bright, neon green laces. A night after scoring 16 points in the Rising Stars game, he met with Michael Jordan in Chicago on Saturday morning, Doncic said, but he left with one regret. He forgot to ask for a selfie.
Doncic is vying to carve his own path at age 20, as the Mavericks shift the face of their franchise from Dirk Nowitzki to the Slovenian sharpshooter. This weekend is an anointing of the official arrival of the Doncic era in Dallas.
“When you get introduced as a starter in the All-Star Game, that’s a pretty big deal,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “That will be a moment I’m sure that he will remember forever. You do it once, the goal will be to duplicate it and continue to get back there. The hope is that from a health standpoint, he’s going to be feeling good.”
Drafted third overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2018, Doncic was traded to the Mavericks for Trae Young, who was selected No. 5.
Young will start for Team Giannis as the Hawks’ point guard and Doncic move into the next tier of NBA greats. Two full strides short of halfcourt, Doncic accepted a verbalized challenge from Young to launch from midcourt as the final seconds of the second quarter of Friday night’s Rising Stars game ticked off.
The shot went in, and Young embraced Doncic in joyful amazement, an iconic, meme-worthy reminder of who’s got next among NBA All-Stars.
“That moment with Luka — it was just a crazy moment,” Young said.
As peers know, they better get used to it.
–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media