As he stood on the sparkling new basketball courts in the neighborhood where he grew up, Luka Dončić flashed that big grin like someone who was back where it all began.

This was where a preteen Dončić boldly played against – and often beat – the older kids. It’s where his step-back was born.

It’s where he first learned Luka Magic.

On a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon, dignitaries surrounded Dončić in his hometown of Ljubljana, Slovenia. But the real stars were kids from the local community who got the first look at two refurbished basketball courts, made possible with the help of Luka, the Dallas Mavericks and 2K Foundations, the philanthropic arm of 2K that supports and inspires underserved communities by directly investing in local enrichment programs.

Dončić was thrilled to be able to give back to his hometown, much as he has done in Dallas, his adopted hometown in the U.S.

“This is a very exciting day for me,” Dončić said. “I have great memories growing up in Ljubljana. These are my childhood courts where I learned and practiced the game. It’s an honor to be able to give back to my city and to my country that gave me so much and that I love.  The opportunity for kids to play on the same courts and pursue the same dreams I had is something I am excited about.”

The courts are full of Luka-isms. And also Maverick touches.

The artwork featured on the court was designed by Dončić, who chose a graphic designer in Slovenia, Nejc Prah, to bring his design to life. Luka’s new logo integrates Luka’s initials (LD), his jersey number (77) and arrows that represent his deceptive style of play with negative space revealing an ‘S’ for his home country.

As part of the celebration, Luka signed the court, officially dedicating it to the community.

Local children were then invited to participate in basketball scrimmages, 3-on-3 games, dribble clinics and skills challenges. MVPs of the challenges were judged by Luka and others while Jordan Brand and BioSteel, who work closely with Dončić, provided prizes and equipment.

But first, Dončić sank the first shot, a 3-pointer, on the new courts. It took him two tries, but nobody in the crowd gathered around the court seemed to care. Watch the video here: Luka Doncic opens up new basketball court in Ljubljana Slovenia – YouTube .

Dončić, the two-time first-team All-NBA point guard, has spent most of his time in Slovenia since finishing his country’s run in the Olympics last month. It’s been an eventful stay at home – first signing his $207-million contract extension and now unveiling a spiffy new set of basketball courts.

Who knows? Maybe this proving ground for the local community will provide a stepping stone for the next generation of Slovenian basketballers following in Dončić’s footsteps.

“Having Luka return to his hometown and dedicate these courts to his childhood town is such an honor,” said Zoran Janković, Ljubljana’s mayor. “He continues to represent Slovenia globally, and we’re proud of what he has done for our country, not only at the Olympics but his efforts in the NBA. He loves Ljubljana, and the city and country love him.”

The project is an extension of Dončić’s community work in the Dallas area. He was the Mavericks’ nominee for March’s NBA Cares Community Assist Award for his work during the 2020-21 season.

He helped Texans get through the historic winter snowstorm in February with numerous donations and also provided shoes and other necessities and Maverick goodies to health-care workers on the front line battling the coronavirus.

July 6 was deemed Luka Dončić Day in Dallas for his actions in the community.

The Ljubljana courts are 2K Foundations’ latest of numerous projects and includes new seating areas and lighting for the courts.

Dončić is featured on the cover of the NBA 2K22 video game. The 2K Foundations focus on elevating communities around the world by providing resources and experiences. The organization has invested in more than 40 initiatives to provide access to sports, career and learning opportunities.

“Foundations plays a very important role for 2K and our sports titles,” said David Ismailer, president of 2K. “We’re incredibly proud of the contributions made to communities, from court refurbishments to STEM programming.

“We’re honored to have created a program that plays a part in giving some of the world’s biggest athletes and talents, such as Luka, the chance to further connect with the communities that mean so much to them.”

Recently finished projects include newly renovated basketball courts in Moss Point, Miss., in partnership with Phoenix Suns All-Star Devin Booker, as well as in Birmingham, England, in partnership with the Birmingham Rockets. Additional programming and activations in Los Angeles, Oakland, Minneapolis, and New Orleans are scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

Twitter: @ESefko

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