What a moment for Mavericks’ superstar Luka Dončić on Friday.
Adding to the long list of highlights and achievements in his young life, the 22-year-old point guard joined his fellow Slovenian athletes during the opening ceremonies for the Olympics at Tokyo.
We’ve all seen that Luka Magic smile before, after a step-back 3-pointer or when greeting young, adoring fans.
Somewhere, under that dark mask half a world away, Dončić surely had one of those ear-to-ear grins that we’ve come to know and love.
He walked into the cavernous Olympic Stadium with 53 other Slovenian athletes shortly before 8 a.m., Dallas time (just before 10 p.m. in Tokyo).
Dončić, 22, was not the flag-bearer for Slovenia, in spite of leading that country’s men’s national basketball team to its first-ever appearance in the Olympics.
But he was there with the other athletes as they had the moment of a lifetime.
It may have been an early wakeup call for Americans to watch the opening march from Japan, but it was worth it to see Dončić, if only for a brief moment on NBC’s morning telecast, strutting in during the parade of athletes for the official start to the Games.
The pride was on display. And it was clear that Dončić was thrilled to be representing his country. They remain longshots to win a medal, but their Olympic quest begins against a strong Argentina team Sunday night at 11:40, Dallas time.
The scene at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium was obviously subdued. There were no fans involved thanks to the impact of the coronavirus. The stands were empty, save for the multicolored seat coverings that gave the illusion of fans in the stands. These games were scheduled for 2020, but pushed back because of the global health crisis.
Less than 1,000 onlookers, most of them dignitaries or journalists, were in the stadium that has a capacity of 68,000.
None of that dampened the enthusiasm of the athletes who marched into the stadium, waving small flags and dressed in various outfits.
For Dončić and his fellow Slovenians, it was blue shorts and a shirt colored mostly white and blue. The Mavericks’ superstar wore his white jacket cape-style.
Slovenia, a country of 2.1 million residents, has 54 athletes at the Olympics.
Also involved in the walk-in of nations was Mavericks’ guard Josh Green, who joined the large Australian contingent. One of the flag-bearers for the Aussies was San Antonio Spurs point guard and Green’s teammate on the men’s national team, Patty Mills.
The Australians, with a bevy of NBA players on the roster, is considered a medal contender. The basketball competition begins on Sunday for them.