AUTHOR’S NOTE: On our sister site www.leblanguage.net, much like many other daily media efforts during this time of year, we’re reprising “best of” from the soon-to-be ending year (and not a minute too soon, may I add). Each day through the end of this week, we have attempted to connect something that just occurred or may happen in the world now with something we previously mused on. Last night, someone we previously wrote about made basketball history, giving us reason to recall a previous entry as being precient.
Luka Doncic is arguably a one-man team, with his Dallas Mavericks both shorthanded and injury-plagued so far this season. But last night, Doncic, the league’s leading scorer, outdid not only his own past performances, but also those of practically every other NBA player in history.
As Zach Wolpin of Basketball Insiders crowed:
The league is in good hands for years to come with the amount of young talent that is making a name for themselves every time they touch the court. That is certainly true for the Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic. He’s still 23 years old and continues to show why he is going to be an MVP of NBA one day. League analysts and media have been begging for Dallas to get Doncic another all-star on the team who can ease his usage rate for the Mavericks. Until then, Luka will continue to carry his team like he did last night vs the Knicks.
Doncic finished the game with 60/21/10 in OT and lead his team to a much needed win. His team are on a four-game win streak and sit at sixth in the West. The 60-point triple-double ties a record previously set by James Harden in 2018 when he had a 60-point triple-double vs the Magic. He certainly will enjoy the day off today after giving his all to get his team a win last night.
Not only did Doncic make history with his stat line, but as Wolpin continued, he did so with an almost impropable flair for the dramatic:
The Mavericks were down two with 4.2 left on the clock in regulation. Doncic was at the line and intentionally missed a free throw so that his team could get the rebound and try for another two-pointer. His shot ricocheted off the backboard and he got his own rebound and sunk a shot as he fell to the ground. He thought he’d won the game for Dallas, but they still had OT to play.
The fact that this victory occurred against Doncic’s previous partner in crime Jalen Brunson, who simply could not refuse the $104 million his family and friends who run the Knicks threw at him during the off-season, was all the more sweet. But just about a month ago, Doncic also conquered another rival handily, which we wrote about effusively and we reprise below:
If I learned anything from being around Mark Cuban for a few years, when he sees a quality product with an upside value proposition, he won’t hesitate to make a significant investment in it. That’s as much true with his passion business, the ownership of the Dallas Mavericks, as any he has placed some SHARK TANK capital into.
The Mavericks were defined for more than two decades by a shrewd European import named Dirk Nowitzki, who Cuban and his basketball minds plucked as a teenager to come to Dallas, where he then played 21 seasons and led the Mavericks to two conference championships and, to date, its only NBA title, a thrilling revenge victory against the Miami Heat that helped chase Lebron James out of South Beach.
And four years ago, the Mavericks found for Cuban found a worthy successor to Nowitzki’s potential legacy in Luca Doncic, a Slovenian guard with a professional league championship to his credit at the age of 19. The Mavericks traded to Atlanta the rights to Trae Young as well as a projected 2019 draft pick in exchange for the rights to Doncic. Young hasn’t been terrible–indeed, he helped lead the Hawks to a surprising conference finals appearance in summer 2021, and is currently among the top 10 scorers in the league. But Luca–well, he’s a revelation.
And nowhere was this more evident than last night, when before a TNT audience he nearly single-handedly lifted the Mavericks back to .500 with a 116-113 victory over the current league champion Golden State Warriors, still struggling around .500 themselves at the quarter-pole of the season. Along the way to their title, the Dubs beat Doncic and the Mavs in five games last spring. Last night served notice to them, and especially their own stalwart guard Steph Curry, that things may be very different this time around,
Beating the current level of Curry is one noteworthy accomplishment for Doncic. Beating the legacy of Nowtizki is quite another. And as Will Bjarnar of SB Nation.com reported last night, there were several of note that occurred:
On Tuesday, Luka Doncic recorded his 20th 40-point game in a Mavericks uniform. That means that — *takes deep breath* — at 23 years old, in just his fifth season in the NBA, he has as many 40-point outings as one of the greatest pure scorers to ever walk this Earth, a man who, need I remind you, played for 20 years. Luka is now the 10th player in NBA history to have 20-plus career games of 40-plus points before turning 24. I don’t know what to say about this kid at this point.
In 20 years in the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki scored 40 points in a game 20 times. (It sounded low to me, too.) That’s ranks second all-time for 40-point games by a Maverick — Mark Aguirre did it 22 times.
Doncic didn’t just score 41 in a three-point win over the Warriors: He pulled down 12 rebounds and added 12 assists, too. It was his 51st triple-double — most in the history of the Mavs by a country mile.
Last October, Cuban plunked down more than $200M to sign Doncic up for five more seasons, and his immediate response was a spirited upset of the regular season champion Phoenix Suns. This year, he’s leading the league in scoring, and serving notice that he, not Curry, is likely to be the face of the NBA sooner than later.
Perhaps the only drawback is that Doncic’s supporting cast has been exceptionally weak. Right hand Jalen Brunson is now in New York, incapable of not taking the tens of millions his friends and family running the team were ready to throw him. Given a supporting cast that includes names like Finney-Smith and Hardaway, Junior (who isn’t so junior these days), the fact this Mavericks team now has the same won/loss percentage at Curry and the Dubs is especially eye-opening.
But for someone who spotted the potential of Broadcast. com and Hydroviv, should it be that surprising?
His name is Luka. And he’s heading way higher than the second floor.
And at his current rate of production, assuming he stays healthy, he is now on a pace to potentially eclipse whatever number of points Lebron James winds up with once he breaks Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s longtime best-ever mark later this season or early next. A significant contributor to his staying healthy will be whether or not Cuban and team go out and get him some help, particularly in a season where the NBA Western Conference is wide open and the current top tier of Denver, New Orleans and Memphis are not daunting. A Bojan Bogdanović or even a Bradley Beal might become available; more likely, a banger like Duncan Robinson could be worth a flyer. And he only needs one title to equal the number that Nowitzki, he of the recently dedicated statue outside American Airlines Center, achieved during his storied Mavs career.
He’s equaled Harden, and he could equal Nowitzki. Equaling or eclipsing Lebron isn’t all that impossible.
Especially after last night.
POSTSCRIPT: We’re adding the following link with every repost through the end of the year because, well, you’ll see the reasons if you click on it. If you like what you’ve read, and perhaps are inclined to do more catch up, I’d greatly appreciate your consideration of taking the requested action.
Fundraiser by Steven Leblang : Steve Leblang (gofundme.com)