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First NBA Finals trip dream come true for Luka Doncic

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic smiles during a press conference following the team’s victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference finals on Thursday, May 30, 2024 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Matt Krohn)

BOSTON – Luka Doncic didn’t stay up all night to watch NBA Finals games when he was a kid. In his native Slovenia, they usually started around 3 in the morning. He had to go to school a few hours later. He would wake up and find out who won.

But make no mistake: Doncic was paying attention.

“Every kid who plays basketball dreams of this,” Doncic said. “I was one of them.”

Dreams come true for Doncic on Thursday night, when the 25-year-old makes his NBA Finals debut for the Dallas Mavericks when they take on the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the NBA title series. this year. He could become the first player to win a scoring title and a championship in the same season since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000, and a title would surely only reinforce the argument that Doncic, who leads all players this postseason in points, rebounds and assists, he may be the best player in the game right now.

READ: Luka Doncic-Kyrie Irving duo in great shape as Mavericks play in NBA Finals

“These will be the international finals,” said Kyrie Irving, Doncic’s defense teammate in Dallas. “Everyone will be watching. “All the finals are international, but the world is watching.”

He didn’t have to explain why. Yes, the NBA Finals have long been available in more than 200 countries and territories, broadcast in around 50 different languages ​​and dialects. And it’s nothing new for foreign players to star on the NBA’s biggest stage; Two of the last three NBA Finals MVPs were Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo for Milwaukee in 2021 and Serbian Nikola Jokic for Denver last year.

“Amazing. First time here. Hopefully it’s not the last,” Doncic said Wednesday at NBA Finals media day in Boston. “But never take it for granted. You never know if you’re going to come back, so enjoy it.” the experience”.

Doncic, who became a father for the first time this season and called that development “the greatest thing in the world,” is a global corporation in himself, a player who speaks four languages ​​fluently and has a huge following in all of them. parts. And a championship would only add to his rapidly growing legend.

READ: NBA: Kyrie Irving was right: the Mavericks were just getting started

“Luka is at a spectacular, stratospheric level,” Hall of Famer Pau Gasol said at an event in Spain this week. “What he has done… is within the reach of very few in the history of this sport.”

The numbers back up what Gasol says.

Doncic averages 28.7 points per game in his six regular seasons; only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain, both at 30.1, have a higher career average. He is the only player in NBA history to average at least eight assists and eight rebounds per game. He is one of two players with at least 10,000 points, 3,000 rebounds and 3,000 assists in the first 400 games of his career; Oscar Robertson is the other.

“The game is too simple, too easy,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said at the end of the regular season, when asked why voters haven’t rewarded Doncic with an MVP award yet. “It makes everything seem too easy. “Unfortunately, that’s what happens with some of the greats…we take their talent for granted.”

Doncic doesn’t want to talk about how winning is easy. He can make it look easy: He had a league-best 73-point game this season, 13 different games in which he scored at least 40 points in the regular season, and that number could have been even higher considering he scored exactly 39 points in eight. other ocasions.

Luka Doncic Kyrie Irving The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 3 of the NBA playoffs

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, and Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) celebrate their victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Finals. on Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Coaches in his native Slovenia consider him the best player in the world, especially after his exploits at the Olympic, European and world championships in recent years. Rival international coaches have done the same.

“When you talk about basketball IQ, everyone has different levels,” Kidd said Wednesday. “When you look at Luka’s level of understanding of the game, timing and scoring, who’s on the court, he’s top of the class in that regard. When you look at the stage, he is not afraid of the stage, of the moment. Successful or not, he loves that moment. … We are playing in the Finals, because of his IQ and his willingness to go on stage and not be afraid to fail.”

Stopping Doncic in these Finals is not an option, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. Containment is the goal.

“You just have to be very aware of what you’re willing to live with and what you’re willing to take away and when it’s time to adapt,” Mazzulla said. “There is no single coverage. There is not only one player. Multiple coverages will be needed. Several players will be needed. “It will take a team effort.”

The numbers don’t come by chance, Doncic insists. Neither do victories. Doncic was a proven professional even before arriving in the NBA after shining as a teenager for Real Madrid, a club to which he has remained very close. But his star has continued to shine brighter in each of his NBA seasons, and now, kids in Slovenia will wake up over the next two weeks to see how their hero fared in the finals.

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“It’s very difficult to win,” Doncic said. “You watch a lot of movies and you get to work. And it is very difficult. I don’t think people understand how hard it is to win games in this league, especially in the playoffs. So I think we deserved to be here. We deserved it. Because every game we play in the playoffs is very difficult to win.”



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