Luka Doncic is Dirk Nowitzki’s heir in more than one way

2024-07-07T12:14:47+00:00 2024-07-07T15:36:55+00:00.

Aris Barkas

07/Jul/24 12:14

Luka Doncic’s presence in the Olympic qualifying tournament with Slovenia is a beacon for all players

By Aris Barkas/

The season of Luka Doncic started last August with the preparation for the FIBA World Cup. Since then, he has more than 100 games on his belt, an NBA finals appearance, and a crushing defeat by the Celtics.

Add some minor injuries, and you get a player who had every right to skip the Olympic Qualifiers. He was tired, already a global icon, a hero to his country, and one of the most spectacular active players.

But he didn’t say no. Banged up and gassed out, he traveled to Greece because he couldn’t let his beloved Slovenian national team down.

He was there, clearly outgunned by Croatia and essentially Greece, giving the last drop of his sweat and tears for the dream of making it to the Olympics. Having already won the Eurobasket – with another Slovenian icon, Goran Dragic, leading the way – at a very early age, he accepts the responsibility of not being just the face of the Mavericks, or even of the NBA, but also of Slovenia.

With the younger generation of his country, not being able to provide solid help and veterans like Edo Muric, Zoran Dragic and Klemen Prepelic still carrying the load, nobody would have dared to accuse Doncic of taking this summer off.

It seems, however, that this has not crossed his mind, and the standing ovation of the Greek fans in a sold-out arena when he stepped out of the court and the semifinal against Greece was already decided, is one more testament to this legacy.

Doncic is clearly the heir of Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas aiming to bring the Mavs at least one more championship ring.

He is also the heir of Nowitzki in his mentality towards the German national team. Having a limited supporting cast, Nowitzki was always there – or at least in most big tournaments – winning a bronze medal in the FIBA World Cup of 2002 and a silver in the 2005 Eurobasket.

Saturday’s game even mirrored this event, as Nowitzki lost the final of 2005 to Greece, got a standing ovation from Greek fans, and got praised by the Greek coach, legendary Panagiotis Giannakis.

Doncic couldn’t make it to the final, playing against a team that included another modern icon, Giannis Antetokounmpo, but first and foremost was coached by Doncic’s childhood idol, Vassilis Spanoulis.

The mutual respect and adoration are obvious, Doncic gave his signed shoes after the game to Spanoulis’ older son and the moral of the story is simple.

In an age of strict professionalism where the bond to the national team, especially in the US, appears to be strong only in the Olympics for one reason or another, Doncic’s example is a beacon of what playing with the national team means.