The NBA Cares Community Assist Award is one the highest off-court honors any NBA player can receive. Each team selects their most charitable player for the off-season to earn a nomination and then a league committee chooses the player who best reflects the passion that the NBA and its players share for giving back to their communities.
Now entering his fourth NBA season, Dončić was selected because of his tremendous work in the community and ability to unite a global audience through the game of basketball.
This summer, he represented his country at the Tokyo Olympics and then returned home to refurbish two basketball courts in his hometown of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
This gesture impacted the lives of thousands of children and families and created lasting memories for his community.
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 provided shoes and other necessities and Maverick goodies to healthcare workers battling the coronavirus on the front line.
July 6 was deemed Luka Dončić Day in Dallas for his actions in the community.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins read a resolution that recognized Dončić’s accomplishments both on and off the basketball court. He also praised the Slovenian’s ability to unite fans from across the world and thanked him for using sport to influence communities and provide outreach for underserved communities.
“Dončić carries an important role in the community and we thank him for joining owner Mark Cuban and other team members in donating $1.25 million in February when the winter storm wiped out the county,” Judge Jenkins read. “Luka also joined the Mavs in donating $500,000 in funds to support childcare for healthcare workers on the frontlines of COVID-19. Luka also donated Jordan shoes to frontline healthcare workers back in March.”
In early July, Dončić bounced to the beat of cheers and shouts as his Slovenian teammates hoisted him above their shoulders.
It was a storybook moment after Dončić helped his nation earn a berth to the Olympics for the first time in Slovenia’s history.
This was just the start of a magical summer.
“We’re making history for our country,” Dončić said.
“I’m happy that I can witness and play with him,” said Slovenia guard Zoran Dragic. “He’s such an awesome guy and it’s so easy to play with him because he’s just an unbelievable person and basketball player. Yeah, we can all be happy that he’s Slovenian.”
As he stood on the sparkling new basketball courts in the neighborhood where he grew up, 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.
Dončić, the two-time first-team All-NBA point guard, spent most of his time in Slovenia this past summer after finishing his country’s run in the Olympics.
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 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.”
Back at the start of the summer, Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall joined commissioners court on Luka Dončić Day to applaud him for his community work and tremendous accomplishments.
“On behalf of the Dallas Mavericks, thank you so much for recognizing him and what he’s doing,” Marshall told the court. “We appreciate him here in Dallas and we appreciate how he representing Dallas around the world.”
Marshall also took to social media to write a heartfelt message about what Dončić means to Dallas County and fans around the globe, especially children.
“One of the reasons I appreciate Luka is he truly loves our children,” Marshall wrote. “I saw him stop warming up to respond to a child’s request. Giving away shoes, writing big checks, providing childcare for first responders, starting a foundation, etc., are great. But to give of your time to embrace a little person and their dream is heartwarming to me. And he didn’t think twice about it. THIS is the spirit of our Dallas Mavericks team. They are caring human beings who give of their time, talent, and treasure. Yes, today is Luka Doncic Day and he would want us to appreciate our entire team. And I do.”
The video of Dončić and a 9-year-old boy named Brayden Whitley went viral and has nearly three million views.
“I was thinking, ‘am I going to meet Luka? Am I going to meet Luka?’” Whitley recalled.
While warming up at the free-throw line, Doncic paused for a picture with Whitley. But, the amazing journey didn’t end there. After the game, he got one more special encounter.
“Luka Doncic came over, untied his shoes, took them off, signed both of them and gave them to me,” Whitley said.
Prior to the 2020 Covid restrictions, Dončić was often found pulling fans from the stands during warm ups, and was proud to sign autographs for youth whenever he got the chance. He desired to continuously create memorable experiences for those who cheer him on each game.
The Slovenian sensation has also worked with the Mavs Foundation to create fan “meet and greet” sessions. The foundation then auctions these prize experiences to help raise funds for women, children and families in North Texas.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dončić has been involved in supporting healthcare workers in the Dallas community. In March, he donated 100 pairs of Air Jordan 1 shoes and Mavs swag to vaccination workers at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
The goal was to provide them with new shoes to wear, but even more — to boost morale and hope after the medical workers have spent over a year battling this pandemic along the frontlines.
“I wish (that) I could be there in person,” Dončić shared in a pre-recorded video. “But I just want to say that I have one pair of Jordans for each one of you. I’m really excited to do that. Thank you for everything that you did during this pandemic and go Mavs!”
Story: Tamara Jolee and Eddie Sefko
What an honor to partner with 2K Foundations and rebuild my childhood courts. Thank you! pic.twitter.com/k7zYfD4OJD
— Luka Doncic (@luka7doncic) September 4, 2021
THANK YOU to all healthcare workers. Appreciate all you do! 🙏🙏 https://t.co/co3aRdfpUG
— Luka Doncic (@luka7doncic) March 23, 2021