CHARLOTTE – In just four short months since the NBA season started, Luka Doncic has risen to stardom so fast in football-crazed Dallas that his star is shining as bright in the Metroplex as Dallas Cowboys’ stars Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott.
Like Zeke and Dak are known by just one name, Doncic also is affectionately known by one name — Luka. And that name has been synonymous with winning, with putting bodies in arenas, with dazzling plays, with taking over games, and with a smile that flashes from one end of the DFW area to the other.
Indeed, Doncic is a fan favorite unlike no other. Fans line up near the tunnel at American Airlines Center during pregame warmups game after game just to get a close glimpse of the Dallas Mavericks’ rookie point guard, or to get a picture with him, or perhaps an autograph or two.
“Dallas is special for me,” Doncic said on Saturday during Media Day at the Bojangles Coliseum. “It was the place to live for me, so I’m just happy to be there.”
The Doncic magic has also been on display in Charlotte, where he scored 13 points and dished out nine assists for the World Team during their 161-144 loss to the U.S. Team on Friday night in the Rising Stars game. In addition, Doncic will be on display on Saturday at 7 p.m. during the Skills Challenge competition at the Spectrum Center
“It’s going to be fun,” Doncic said of the Skills Challenge. “I’ve never did this before, so I’m happy.
“I’m just having fun. This is my first All-Star Weekend, so I’m just having fun.”
The fun in Charlotte started for Doncic when he had teammate Dirk Nowitzki as the honorary coach for the World Team. But Doncic had some good-natured fun when discussing Nowitzki’s coaching skills – or lack thereof
“He wasn’t talking that much,” Doncic said. “I don’t know why.
“He was a quiet coach, so he’s obviously not material for a coach. But it was good to have him on the sidelines.”
Nowitzki will be competing in the 3-point contest on Saturday night, and he’ll also be playing in his 14th All-Star on Sunday at 7 p.m. Doncic discussed the ironic of him enjoying his first All-Star Weekend and Nowitzki being involved in possibly his last All-Star Weekend.
“It’s special,” Doncic said. “But we don’t know if it’s Dirk’s last one because you don’t ever know when he’s going to retire, so we’ll see about that.”
As the media hurled a range of questions at him in rapid-like fashion, Doncic said Coach Carter is his favorite basketball movie, and that he desperately wants to meet Michael Jordan, the greatest NBA player of all-time who also happens to own the Charlotte Hornets. While adding that Nowitzki has been his mentor, Doncic was asked if there was one particular player he doesn’t like guarding him, or he doesn’t like to guard.
“It’s a lot of players,” Doncic said. “But if I have to say one it would be Kyrie (Irving).”
And Doncic noted that it’s not just Irving’s nifty ball-handling skills that bothers him.
“It’s everything,” he said. “I just don’t want to fall down.”
While Doncic predicts Nowitzki will have an “easy” time winning the 3-point contest, he added that former Mavs teammate Dennis Smith Jr. is his favorite to win Saturday night’s Slam Dunk contest.
“I saw him in practice,” Doncic said. “His jumps are amazing, his jumps are high.”
Doncic’s jumps are also high. Those jumps, that is, that he’s made thus far while becoming a global household name.
Mavs merchandise with Doncic’s name on them are flying off the shelves as quickly as they arrive. This 19-year wonderboy has taken the NBA – and the world – by storm.
In layman’s term, like Zeke and Dak, the popularity of Doncic is soaring through the roof. And now that he’s an integral part of All-Star Weekend, that popularity is going to continue to grow.
“This is great,” Doncic said, sounding like the bashful kid that he is. “Just being here is special.”