DALLAS — Ever since he’s made his NBA coming out party last season, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Dončić has been the beneficiary of a slew of accolades and figurative pats on the back.
Especially from arguably the best basketball player on the planet.
Three-time NBA champion and four-time league MVP LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers has been especially complementary of Dončić, the Mavericks’ prized swingman, who’s been as good as advertised since he made the transition from the EuroLeague to U. S. soil following the 2018 campaign.
Having been dubbed the best 20-year-old player in NBA history behind James — who entered the NBA at 18 years of age — all Dončić has done since being anointed NBA Rookie of The Year last season is pick up where he left off.
The 6-foot-7 Slovenian’s 29.6 points per game is third best in the NBA behind Houston’s James Harden (38.5) and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP.
Add to the fact that Dončić’s display undoubtedly has given way to the Mavs having become one of the NBA’s biggest surprises this season, and it’s no wonder the greatest player of this generation deems it essential to often give props to a youngster, who’s already assumed the superstar label, a feat he’s emphatically cemented less than one year removed from the ceremonious retirement of Mavs great Dirk Nowitzki.
Much to the delight of Dončić, James is certainly a fan of the NBA sophomore sensation.
“He’s a great, young talent,” James told Making Headline News during a recent interview. “I love his game. He has the ability to not only create shots for himself, but I love the fact that he can get great looks for his team.”
It is, by all accounts, because of Dončić’s remarkable play, coupled with last year’s midseason acquisition of Kristaps Porziņģis, that Dallas will be vying for a playoff spot between now and season’s end.
Heading into Friday night’s nationally-televised showdown against the first place Lakers at the American Airlines Center (8:45 CST on ESPN) in what appears to be a potential playoff preview, the Mavericks (23-14) are currently sixth in the Western Conference standings, having amassed eight more wins than last season after 27 games.
“They’re a competitive team with KP (Kristaps Porziņģis) and Luka with (Maxi) Kleber, (Dorian) Finney-Smith, and Seth (Curry) and those guys they have around him,” James said of a Dallas team that has dropped two of three meetings with the Lakers this season. “They play fast. They shoot a lot of threes and push the tempo to keep you off balance. (Mavs coach Rick) Carlisle’s team has always been well-coached.”
Said fellow Lakers superstar Anthony Davis in assessing the resurgence a Mavs team that’s looking to snap a four-year playoff drought: “They’re a very good team. They’re a playoff team. Their cornerstone is KP and Luka with a great supporting cast around them.”
While James has praised the way the Mavs’ leader has gone about adjusting to life as one of the NBA’s young bright stars, Dončić, on the other hand, has always been equally fond of James, a 16-year veteran and 14-time All-Star.
During a game in L. A. last November, Dončić was spotted waiting outside of the Lakers’ locker room, where he received an autographed jersey signed by James.
One of James’ representatives emerged from the locker room with a signed No. 23 jersey that read “To: Luka D, God Bless and continue to #StriveForGreatness.”
All things considered, striving for greatness seems to have become a personal mantra, of sorts, for Dončić, who unquestionably has made his presence felt since he’s entered the NBA ranks.
Just like James, his biggest mentor, had done a little more than a decade-and-a-half ago as an NBA newcomer.
“That’s what I like about him,” said James, who has gone on record recently and said Dončić is the kind of player with whom he’d like to play. “He plays the game the right way.”
A pretty remarkably brilliant assessment from arguably the best basketball player on the planet.
Andre Johnson is the award-winning Founder/Publisher & Editor In Chief of Making Headline News. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism and a former reporter of sports for the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, call him at 901-690-6587 or send email to email@example.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.
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