How does Luka Doncic compare to LeBron James, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and others?
Doncic is a MVP in waiting, an all in one unicorn.
Luka Doncic is turning the NBA 2019/2020 season upside down. At only 20 years of age and just his second year in the NBA, he is breaking records that no one could have anticipated.
He is not the most athletic of players yet possesses the co-ordination and basketball IQ to dominate opposing teams. His background isn’t typical of a NBA superstar.
Born in Slovenia he grew up as a precocious talented young boy. He found basketball was his calling after discarding soccer because he grew too tall – however, at 6 ft 7, he is of average height for NBA players.
He did not refine his skills through the American college system, but instead played professionally in the EuroLeague, where he was a boy crushing the league of men. Being the star player for Real Madrid,
Doncic earned MVP honors for his stellar season in 2018 at the tender age of 18.
He was then drafted into the NBA as the third draft pick by Atlanta, but was subsequently traded to the Dallas Mavericks. Till this day, Atlanta and the preceding teams that passed on him are ruing their error in judgment.
Doncic was awarded Rookie of the Year for 2018/2019 season and continues to surprise in 2019/2020.
So what makes him so special?
Many have compared him to several star players but neither fit perfectly to describe his game.
In many ways, he is similar to Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and even the “King” LeBron James and yet there is something also unique with his play making abilities.
He has a persona that shines like Steph Curry, and he displays a maturity which belies his age. At the moment, he also has the hunger of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
The drive and determination to make oneself better, to the point of being obsessed.
So let’s compare Doncic with NBA MVP players from past and present.
Luka Doncic and LeBron James
LeBron James: MVP 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013
Yes, there are two noticeable differences between Doncic and James, athletic and brute strength, but there are also many commonalities.
James has shown time and time again, the ability to draw numerous opposing players to him, and in doing so team mates will be open to shoot the three or slam down a perfectly executed pick and roll.
Such is James basketball IQ that he is often able to find the open man.
Doncic has the same skill set, sharing the same height and position of point forward as James. He directs the Dallas offense in the same fashion.
Using basketball smarts, Doncic plays with a craftiness that draws a lot of attention from opposing teams. His manipulation of defenses coupled with uncanny court vision, sees his assist count sky rocket.
Doncic and James are both physically stocky and smart players. They use high basketball to augment their basketball prowess and have the ability to bring out the best in team players.
Luka Doncic and Larry Bird
Larry Bird: MVP 1984, 1985, 1986
The legendary Larry Bird dominated the NBA with his drive to win, basketball IQ, and key fundamentals.
He wasn’t flashy and didn’t play above the rim. But could influence the game with such confidence and will power that it was astounding. If anyone could harness the power of the “force”, it would be Larry Bird, MVP for 1984 to 1986 seasons.
Doncic similarly exudes confidence.
In a Maverick vs Lakers game in held during the early 2019/2020 season, Doncic shot a massive long range three pointer with LeBron James in his face. To give context to the audacity of this shot, the game was still hanging in the balance with the game extending into overtime.
Doncic, just like Bird, does not play above the rim but can influence a game with his “force”.
The “force is strong” in this one, shocking many by leading the Mavericks to fifth of the Western Conference ladder!
Remember, unlike the top teams in the league, there is no Batman and Robin combo for the Mavs, it’s just him – Luka Doncic.
(Please don’t tell me that Porzingas is just as good as Anthony Davis, Paul George or Russell Westbrook. Feel free to Leave a Reply at bottom of post if you think otherwise.)
Luka Doncic and Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson: MVP 1987, 1989, 1990
The nemesis to Bird was Magic Johnson.
Their rivalry brought the league to a new level in popularity. Johnson’s game was also the antithesis of Bird’s.
In sync with the style of the LA Lakers – big celebrity power, flashy and oozing that confidence (almost arrogance dare I say) – Johnson was the driver of Showtime!
Running the floor as a huge 6 ft 9 point guard, unheard of at that time, he could see the court like no other. No look passes, behind the back dribbling whilst sprinting down the floor on offense – Magic would confuse and make opposing defenders look like fools!
Doncic, though seemingly contradictory, shows similarities to Magic Johnson (in addition to being similar to Bird!).
He can run the floor like a grand master of chess. Yes, at perhaps a slower pace to that of Magic, but he could make opposing defenders look like fools.
Just look at the below shot of Doncic faking the shoes off his defender. No only does he fake the shot to fool the defender to leave the floor, but he also fakes the pass behind his back! Now that is Magic Johnson like!
Luka Doncic and James Harden
James Harden: MVP 2018
What is synonymous with James Harden?
The step back three!
He is famous for it, he is always doing it, he makes defenders look like fools when doing it.
A prolific scorer, Harden is also a dominant ball handler. He needs the ball in his hands to steer the offense. Not particularly easy on the eyes for hard core fans, it nevertheless is effective.
Doncic is similar with ball dominance and has also developed a deadly step back 3.
Although his 3 point efficiency rate is lower than James Harden’s, it is still at a respectable 32.6%. His ball dominance though, differs to Harden, in that his style appears to be more inclusive. Less one on one, more ball movement, fans are appreciating Doncic’s flair to the game.
Which brings us to Doncic’s comparison to Steph Curry.
Luka Doncic and Steph Curry
Steph Curry: MVP 2015, 2016
Steph Curry can shoot the ball from anywhere on and off the court.
Deadly shooting from outside the three point line transformed how the game is played to this day. But this is not an aspect that Doncic shares with the master shooter.
Steph Curry during the decade of 2010 to 2020 brought great joy to the NBA. He plays with passion and wears his heart on his sleeve. In counter balance, Steph Curry appreciates his upbringing and show humility as well.
Luka Doncic brings the same exuberance that Steph Curry brings to the game. He expresses his highs and lows with sincerity, and demonstrates humility that belies his age.
In his rookie year alone, Doncic Dallas Maverick’s jerseys exploded in sales, and spectators for away games grew significantly. (Home games couldn’t grow any further as they constantly reach full capacity!).
Doncic has it all and more
Doncic shares many similar attributes to MVP’s of past and present.
Many current and ex players, coaches and commentators have compared him to Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Steph Curry. Soon we will be comparing other players to Doncic, and not him to others.
Doncic has incredibly blended the strengths of past and present MVPs and has taken it to another level!