By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Durant reacted to an opinion about why Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic have been dominating the NBA by stating that these two are “anomalies” that shouldn’t be used as examples of what a European basketball product usually looks like.
“How many overseas guys have come over here and had to go back because they couldn’t survive? Using Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic who are anomalies seems like an agenda push,” Durant wrote under an Instagram post with quotes that Ekam Nagra made on the Ball Don’t Stop podcast while discussing Jokic, Doncic and European basketball.
This is what Nagra said and caused Durant’s comment: “The reason guys like Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic took the league by storm is because of the European development system. The emphasis on skill and learning to play the game the right way. Too many young North American hoopers have been conditioned to chase clout from a young age or get stuck in the showcase schedule and because of that, they come into the league with missing parts in their games. The NBA game is very easy for a lot of the Euro players. Their come-up was different. Got polished, turned pro.”
It’s true that European players are taught the basketball fundamentals from an early age and learn to hone their skills while successfully operating within a team system. Those who get selected to join the senior roster can get their baptism by fire in a competitive major league from 15-16 years old and face experienced veterans or stars in games while having to go to school the next day.
Still, Durant has a point: The reasons why Jokic is winning back-to-back MVPs and Doncic is performing like one have far more to do with each player’s individual qualities than with the way the European basketball development system works.
Doncic is a unique, generational talent who had unprecedented – and likely inimitable – accomplishments as a teenager before he joined the Dallas Mavericks. He was a force to be reckoned with in EuroLeague while he was still underage and by 19, he was leading powerhouse Real Madrid to a EuroLeague championship while winning multiple MVP titles.
A player of 18 or 19 years old with Doncic’s skillset and size who is having such an impact on the top level of EuroLeague definitely seems to be headed straight to NBA stardom. But the Slovenian guard/forward is a one-of-a-kind case in the annals of European basketball.
On the other hand, Jokic wasn’t that big of a name in Europe in 2014 when the Denver Nuggets picked him with one of the biggest steals in Draft history but he is also a very rare specimen of a player with special characteristics and an extraordinary evolution over the years.
Durant got a strong first-hand taste recently of competitive EuroLeague basketball when he attended Game 4 and Game 5 of the playoffs between Olympiacos Piraeus and AS Monaco, to support his former Brooklyn Nets teammate Mike James.