Culture / Sporting Life

Luka Doncic Proves He’s a Legendary Teammate, Too — 21-Year-Old Superstar’s Caring Makes the Mavs the NBA’s Most Fun Team

The Mavericks' Real Love For Doncic Comes Through in His Greatest Moment

BY // 08.24.20

Luka Doncic went legend, but he’s still somehow one of the guys. He’s still beloved by his teammates seemingly without cynicism. Which may be even more remarkable than a 43-17-13 line in the NBA playoffs at age 21. You just don’t see that in the world of professional sports where jealousies and competing interests often seep in.

But you do with this Dallas Mavericks team that somehow seems almost like a college basketball team, high off the thrill of an unexpected NCAA Tournament run.

Just look at how the Mavericks celebrate Doncic’s latest bit of can-you-believe-that-dramatics — a game-winning, step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer to stun the heavily-favored LA Clippers, who now find themselves locked in a 2-2 series. They wait for Doncic to get back to their backstage area (locker rooms are not traditional in the NBA bubble) after a round of postgame interviews (putting up 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists on a beaten up ankle brings responsibilities).

Then, they jump out and absolutely blitz him with water, a surprise attack celebration that’s as sweet as it’s raucous.

This Dallas Mavericks team has plenty of flaws. Dallas stumbled to a 3-5 record in the NBA bubble’s seeding games, sending them into the matchup with the Clippers that no team wanted. But these Mavs are also one of the closest teams you are ever going to see. With Luka Doncic setting the tone as the happy young ringmaster, the Mavericks are a truly joyful team.

There is no doubt they have fun playing basketball. You can sometimes wonder that about Kawhi  Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers.

The Mavericks are so far ahead of schedule, pushing a legit championship contender to the edge in Doncic’s first ever playoff series, because Luka Doncic is somehow even better than anyone imagined. This from a guy who clearly should have been the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft (as I wrote at the time).

Yes, somehow that one-in-a-lifetime Mavericks steal is even better than advertised.

“He’s a bad boy,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says of Doncic in one of ABC’s pre-quarter interviews. “He’s a tough dude. He’s a gamer, that’s obvious.”

He is also somehow the ultimate team guy. Doncic clearly thrives off being part of this fun-loving Mavericks team that’s taken on his youthful exuberance. And fearlessness.

“We have an amazing group of guys,” Doncic says after hitting The Shot. “I know the Clippers have one of the best teams in the league, but we showed our heart.”

“I just love this team.”

All of Dallas — and devoted NBA fans anywhere who appreciate teamwork and a relentless heart — love this Mavericks team, too. How could you not?

With their second best player (Kristaps Porzingis) sidelined, with Doncic having sprained his ankle in Game 3 just two days before, with the Clippers having opened up a 21-point second quarter lead, the Mavericks somehow find a way to still win 135-133 and tie the series. That way is Luka Doncic.

His step-back triple in overtime (over an overmatched Clippers guard Reggie Jackson, who was somehow guarding Doncic on the game’s two biggest possessions) did not just easily beat the buzzer. It send shockwaves through the rest of the league.

It is clear that Doncic is already one of the Top 5 players in the league at age 21. It’s almost a gift that is too amazing to believe. Dirk Nowitzki will be forever adored by Mavericks fans for good reason, but Doncic’s era almost offers a new supersonic level of thrills.

Doncic and the Mavs are way ahead of where they should be by any logical measure, no matter what happens in the rest of this best-of-seven series.

“I know the Clippers have one of the best teams in the league, but we showed our heart. I just love this team. — Luka Doncic

Yes, Luka is already a legend. But his teammates adore him because he’s Luka.

A slightly goofy 21-year-old who seems to legitimately love being part of this group. A superstar who genuinely seems to want them to have the times of their lives, too. You cannot fake this kind of devotion, the way Boban Marjanovic, Mavericks’ 7-foot-4 jokester, wraps Doncic up in a tight hug after the 21-year-old gets back to the locker room. That crazy water dousing of pure joy.

These Mavericks love Doncic as much as they love the winning he brings.

Luka The Teammate may be even more impressive than Luka The Legend. That’s beyond spectacular, too.

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