February 26th, 1999, Dirk Nowitzki had just played 36 minutes against the Utah Jazz. It was one of the 24 starts he had in his rookie season, in his 36 minutes on the court he took 7 shots and finished the game with 5 points and 7 rebounds. Two days later, 5510.78 miles away a boy was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
It’s incredible to consider how much the game has changed during Dirk’s career. That game against Utah, Dirk was 20 years old, and his performance was reasonable for a rookie learning ropes around the league. Twenty years later, his now 20-year-old heir played 32 minutes and scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, including a three to ice the game.
Luka comes from a city that is close to 300.000 inhabitants; entire Slovenia is a bit over 2 million. His father Saša is a former player, so basketball was always in his life, but his real start started in elementary school. He was 7 and played against 10-year-olds. Luka points out he played against bigger and older player most his life, so he had to outthink them. Helps to explain how quickly he adapted and made an impact in the NBA.
We follow players so from such an early age these days it is hard to realize how young they are. Luka still can’t buy alcohol in the United States for a whole year!! Not that he would anyway, getting in shape is his no.1 priority this summer.
Dončić arrived as the most accomplished rookie to play the game, he is already a magnificent player, but we can’t forget his prime is 6 – 7 years away. He is twenty years old today. Let’s toast (those of us who legaly can) to Luka playing for another twenty. We’ll be happy to write about his career on his 40th birthday, in 2039.