In Dallas, the name Dirk Nowitzki cannot be taken for granted. With the German myth at the helm, the Mavericks experienced the best moments in their history. The high point was the ring won in 2014, but even above the most precious title are its countless records and, above all, the esteem of a city that enjoyed it for 21 seasons, equivalent to more than half the life of the Texan franchise ( founded in 1980). No other player has been on the same team for as long in the NBA.
Shading Nowitzki seemed like an impossible mission. However, with his body still warm, in his last season (2018-19) an irreverent boy appeared willing to make the idol forget or, at least, to mitigate the blow for that deeply felt loss.
That young man was Luka Doncic (Ljubljana, Slovenia, 1990). Being named a rookie in the league in his first year – the second European to achieve it after Pau Gasol – already gave some clue of what was to come. The exponential evolution of the former Real Madrid player to this day has made him, at the age of 23, one of the brightest stars in the competition.
The high point was Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center. Two days after the Nowitzki statue was inaugurated at the entrance to the venue, Doncic put on a monumental display, the best of his (short) sports career with the New York Knicks as stone guests. The Slovenian pulled an animated movie triple double out of his hat: 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists, something never seen in the NBA. The records of none other than Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor (50 20 10) shattered. From black and white to colour.
That colossal performance was accompanied by epic. The Mavericks scored a historic comeback signed in overtime (126-121). In the almost 14,000 games played in the last 20 years, no team had been able to come back from nine points with 34 seconds to go. Doncic shouldered the responsibility for achieving the impossible. Jason Kidd's did not give up. They played all their cards and forced the doubts and indecision of some Knicks who were too naive.
The triples from Chris Wood and Spencer Dinwiddie were Doncic's best allies in those last moments. With four seconds left, the Mavs were down three points on the scoreboard and the franchise player had two free throws. He got the first and had to miss the second to dream of a miracle. Fortune sided with him. McBride and Grimes lost the ball and the rebound went back into their hands. With just enough time Doncic threw as he could and forced overtime at the last second, although at that moment he thought they had won, as the player himself would admit.
The pavilion collapsed. Doncic didn't even know how to celebrate such a feat. With a clear gesture of disbelief accompanied by a grin from ear to ear, he began to make strange movements with his arms and legs. How could it be otherwise after that final injection of morale, the Mavericks would end up winning, the fourth consecutive (they are sixth in the Western conference). A gift for sport.
Doncic spent the match scoring with astonishing ease. Being heavier than before does not make him lose a bit of versatility when looking for the hoop. He was surprised that of those 60 points only 6 came from the triple. He didn't need more thanks to his inspiration facing the basket (21/31). “We are in shock. Luka did what had never been done before. He has taught a lesson. He never gives up and neither does his teammates when they see his leader have that attitude, ”Kidd pointed out after the meeting.
He not only received compliments from his coach. Legends of yesterday and today surrendered to Doncic in the networks. Kevin Durant defined him as a video game player. Kevin Garnett encouraged the Mavericks to commission another statue to be placed next to Nowitzki's. “Unreal”, wrote Pau Gasol.
Doncic's recital is already part of history, as were Chamberlain's famous 100 points, Jordan's 69 accompanied by 18 rebounds and 6 assists, Kobe Bryant's whopping 81 points or Tracy's 13 points. McGrady with just over half a minute to go. "I am exhausted. I need a beer”, said a jocular Doncic at the foot of the track. In the last week he also drilled the Rockets (50 points) and the Lakers (32). A tremendous end of the year.