Luka Doncic is on top of the NBA world, drawing comparisons to every great white player to grace the hardwood. The NBA superstar has earned most of his props with eye-popping stats and clutch playoff shots that have already elevated him to all-time great status in the eyes of some thirsty fans and media.
Sunday night in Gane 4 of a Western Conference playoff matchup between the Dallas Mavs and LA Clippers, the “Legend of Luka” officially began. It had been picking up steam every day since he stepped foot in the league, but entering a pivotal Game 5 tonight, all eyes are on the Slovenian Slayer who is being compared to Larry Bird and has already taken most of the steam out of Dame Time’s two seconds of Bubble MVP fame. The Lakers are doing the rest.
As great a player as he’s proving to be early in his career, he’s the perfect gift to white NBA fans who have been thirsting for another legit, white superstar as the NBA gets Blacker and Blacker by the day. Don’t get it twisted; he’s not garnering any accolades or performance credit BECAUSE he’s white because he just might be the most skilled white player ever.
Similar to the rise of Eminem in rap music (first rapper to grace the cover of Rolling Stones) Luka’s popularity has swiftly risen to the point where he was second to LeBron James in the entire 2020 NBA All-Star Voting. He has that true crossover appeal and the same way that Black people idolize Tiger Woods or Bubba Wallace because they stand out in predominately white sports, white hoops fans should and do lose their minds when discussing the (potential) greatness of The NBA’s Greater White Hope.
These factors have influenced Doncic’s swift rise to the NBA’s most popular player.
It starts with race and ends with the very global expansion and genius marketing that we have credited the late David Stern for influencing during his 20-year tenure as commissioner.
White superstars in the NBA are almost as rare as Black superstars in golf. A white NBA star, as legend has it, is worth three times as much as your top-flight NBA star to a franchise.
For one, such players are almost nonexistent and there still hasn’t been a better white player in the league since Larry Bird, who hasn’t played since the early 90s.
In fact, most Americans have given up on a white American hoops superstar emerging. Kevin Love and Tyler Herro are the only names that come to mind and they are second-tier on the superstar meter. JJ Reddick is a nice player.
Alex Caruso is doing his best Kurt Rambis impression as far as being the white guy on an All-Black team and getting superstar love for just being a bit better than decent.
Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki was German and let’s keep it a buck — HOF Canadian star Steve Nash was nasty with the pill and could shoot his ass off in D’Antoni’s inflated system, but race drove him to two MVPs and what some say is unwarranted popularity.
No white players have even approached the magnificence and celebrity status of those guys since. Doncic is Slovenian, but that’s more than OK. It won’t hurt his viability as a superstar in America. Doncic is a millennial and the culture or communication gaps that existed for past European stars aren’t there anymore in this social media age.
The white community is starving for white NBA superstars in the same way that the African-American community wants to see more brown faces in MLB and at QB in the NFL.
So for Luka to be white, young, spectacular and clearly one of the best talents in the game, immediately makes him a special player culturally, racially and generationally.
The hype he’s receiving with his performance in the NBA Bubble during a COVID-19 pandemic, plus the further attention that came his way after Montrezl Harrell called him “A bitch ass white boy” during Game 3 (but more importantly, the way he responded) has solidified his place as a marketing no-brainer and international hero.
And we know Harrell really said that because he was intimidated and getting handled by a white player and that’s one of the unwritten rules of hoops; “Don’t get burned by the white kid.”
He is another example of Stern’s larger dream — to expand the game and develop foreign players who are considered the creme de la creme of American basketball.
Cutty from The Wire was right when he said, “The game done changed.” Though he was referring to the drug game, he could have easily been referencing the changing face of the NBA. And in response, Slim Charles was equally correct when he said, “The Game’s the same, just got more fierce.”
The NBA has never had an international talent pool that was this young and deep.
The Millenial MJ: Chosen One
Doncic, 2018’s NBA Rookie of the Year, made the All-Bubble first team. In the seven games Doncic played in, he averaged 30.0 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game, and 9.7 assists per game.
Now he has Dallas in position to take a pivotal 3-2 lead in the playoffs against a Clippers team that is championship ready. With such success, comes more global attention, and Doncic’s popularity outside of America has done more to drive his growing fame in this country than anything else. The fact that there is a white face perennially being considered for MVP and spoken about in the same breath as LeBron James, James Harden and other all-time greats, just makes Luka a slam dunk.
From old heads to little girls with pigtails, Luka is becoming a major sports brand. He’s the modern-day White Chocolate, with a way more polished Euro game and ice veins.
As noted by several ESPN football analysts the fact that ESPN and other outlets have been pushing Doncic down the throats of everyone — and justifiably so — is another reason for his quick rise. With Zion missing the entire first half of the season, Doncic was all ESPN heads talked about, along with the Dallas Cowboys, LeBron and the Lakers.
We can’t forget the power of Technology…
As far as All-star votes go, any voting that is done on the computer is going to favor the generation that has grown up existing by the click. At just 21 years old, Doncic has a 15-year gap in age with LeBron. He’s the baller that the 10 to 20-year-old age group wants to play like. LeBron is their mom and dad’s favorite. Luka caught the wave and the kids are the ones who drive jersey sales, take time out to actually go online and vote for the players.
They live online, influence and drive the future of online culture.
How could Doncic not be popular? Especially when he’s the goods. Most NBA fans have never seen a white boy that’s the baddest m’fer on the court. It’s still a novelty and in this case, the hype is real. Sky is the limit.