By Dionysis Aravantinos / email@example.com
Perhaps the best 18-year old basketball player in the whole world, Luka Doncic has become Real Madrid’s leader this season, playing exceptionally well in Europe’s best competition, the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and in Spain’s ACB. Also, this past summer, Slovenia with Goran Dragic and Luka Doncic leading the way managed to win the gold medal in the EuroBasket, marking the first in the country’s history.
His biggest fan and mother, Ms. Mirjam Poterbin talks about her son in an exclusive interview with Dionysis Aravantinos and Eurohoops. The mother of the 18-year-old EuroLeague star spoke to us about Luka’s early years, his love for basketball, his personality off the court, his habits and her favorites among her son’s greatest moments so far.
Going back to the early 2000s and Luka being a baby and later on a young kid, Ms. Poterbin talks about how he was full of energy: “Luka was a lovely child. When he was younger, he was an energetic kid. He wanted to do all kinds of sports, but it’s true that when he started playing basketball, he became a little bit calmer.”
She also explains how he fell in love with basketball: “I think that Luka was born with it. Ever since he started walking, when he was one year old, he was playing with a ball in his hands. He was doing all types of sports. He liked soccer a lot but was too tall to play. As I said, I think that Luka was born to play basketball.”
To the question, ‘When did you realize that Luka would have a bright career in basketball?’ Ms. Poterbin says she never thought that far ahead. “Honestly, I was never thinking about this because, as his mom, what was important to me was to see him happy and his dreams come true. I also think that Luka was never thinking about how far he could go either. He was just happy that he was playing basketball and that was the most important thing.”
Doncic has a unique personality off the court, his mother says: “If you know Luka really well, you know that he is a really good person. He is always willing to help other people, and whenever he has the chance to do it, he does. On the court, he is much more energetic than he is in his personal life.”
Dragic has said that Doncic (like all young men his age) was playing video games when they were together in the hotel room this past September. His mother confirms that Luka does enjoy playing video games: “He likes playing video games, especially soccer games (not so much basketball games) and he also loves playing cards with his friends as well as board games with family and friends.”
Moving on, she also talked about how she helped him with the decision to move to Madrid from Slovenia and that it was the toughest decision they ever had to make: “Of course it was difficult. It was the toughest decision I had to make in my life and Luka’s life. It was not easy, as he (Luka) left home at 13 years of age, alone, without family, without friends, to go to a city where he didn’t know anyone. Almost nobody was speaking English and so it was really tough on him. Sometimes I realize this and I say, ‘Oh my God, thank God he got past this period. It’s over.”
On Doncic’s personality, which helped him deal with going to school and playing basketball, she said: “Of course, he was going to basketball practice in Madrid and he was going to school. Like I said, it was really tough, but as it looks now, it was worth it. Luka has a strong personality and he got through all of these changes because of his personality. The most important thing, however, is that he is happy and he is having fun playing basketball.”
Ms. Poterbin talks about Doncic’s success and she tells us that her life did not change that much: “My life did not change so much. After Luka was living alone, in residence with other kids in Madrid, I moved to Madrid two years ago because he needed the support, the help, so I would say that my life changed a little bit because of this, but not too much. I’m here with my son and this is what’s most important to me. I can help him in any way, and that’s what matters.”
When we asked her about the one thing she is most proud of in Luka, she told us that she is proud of his personality and him being a great guy: “I’m proud of him because he is such a good guy. Like I said earlier, he is always willing to help his friends and family, and despite his success in basketball, he has not changed. He is down to earth, with both feet on the ground. He is still a super nice boy like he was before the success.”
She also describes the relationship she has with her son: “I have a great relationship with Luka. Even though he is 18 years old, he is making his own decisions, by himself. I’m just here whenever he needs me. We talk sometimes but in the end he makes his own decisions, and I have to say that, until today, he has made all the right decisions. Our relationship is very good because he has his own life, I have my own life, but we help each other as much as we can.”
Asked to share her favorite memory of her and Luka together, she stated that it is not easy to choose. “It is very hard to choose just one memory. I have so many great memories with my son, it is hard for me to choose one. For him, it is probably the first three-pointer he made in his debut with his first team. Otherwise, I have so many that I can’t choose.”
To the question, ‘How hard is it for you to see Luka accomplish such feats in basketball at an early age but also judge him and advise him when you see something you don’t like in his behavior,’ she answered: “It is not so hard. Luka is a smart guy. He is very mature for his age, and so when we talk with each other, everything is clear. Whenever I see something I don’t like, I try to talk to him. You can talk with him about everything, so this helps.”
After winning the gold medal with Slovenia at just 18 years of age, Doncic’s mother could not put into words how she felt about her son’s – and her country’s – accomplishment: “I felt amazing, I felt proud of Luka. It is true that he is young, only 18 years old, but he showed us on the court that he is more mature than what his age would suggest. I knew that playing for the national team would be something special for him and me as well. I cannot explain it with words, the emotions and the great moments of this tournament.
“I know his personality, I knew he was going to give everything and that the whole nation would be proud of him. It was the first time he played for the national team and they won the gold medal. After the championship, I needed three weeks to realize that this had actually happened. When I saw my son with these big smiles, I could only smile. I always say that if he did not have ears he would smile around his head. He was extremely happy and it was one of the most special moments.”
Eurohoops also asked her about what she dreams of for Luka’s career: “Honestly, I don’t dream of anything in regards to his career in the long term. I don’t think about the future, and neither does Luka. He is a great guy, he does what’s right, and when he’s happy, I’m happy too. In the end, that’s what matters.”
Doncic’s mom also talks about his uniqueness and maturity, as she answers to this question: There is one thing that basketball specialists cannot explain. How can an 18-year-old kid have such maturity and leadership skills (since these are things that are not taught and come with experience)? As the person who knows him better than anyone else, what do you think is the source of his unique personality?
“As I said, Luka is a very mature guy. I have to admit that when he was young, I tried to raise him to become a thoughtful and more mature person, and it looks like he is a mature guy. If you can go through something like that at 13 years of age, you have grown. This life, however, also made him more mature. I think his personality is like that. He knows when he is right and when he is wrong, which also helps.”
Finally, Ms. Poterbin had some advice for other mothers of young men who want to play sports and who are starting their careers now: “Let your children play sports. Do not force your kids to do something they don’t want to do. You need to let your kids do what they want to do and of course try to support them in every way.”