Young NBA Star Shatters Old Records

Issue 9, Volume 113

By Evan Wong 

Cover Image

Dallas Mavericks superstar point guard Luka Dončić recently shocked basketball fans around the world with his unprecedented streak of elite performances, admitting himself as a serious contender in this year’s MVP race. Following second option Jalen Brunson’s move to the New York Knicks, Dončić was essentially left alone to drive the Dallas offense. Nonetheless, like a true leader, he took up this responsibility and is now consistently putting up some of the biggest raw numbers in the league. With averages of 33.8 points and 8.8 assists per game and a 60.8 true shooting percentage, Dončić has already broken a number of scoring records, within both the Mavericks franchise and the NBA as a whole. At just 23 years of age, the former third overall draft pick seems to already be on track to becoming an all-time great player.

Though there was no single game where Dončić began his streak of dominance, many fans began to notice significant improvements in his play starting in late November. One especially notable achievement was his 41-point triple-double against the Golden State Warriors on November 29. The game was a long series of back-and-forth between the two teams, with the Mavericks ahead by just one point with 1:19 left on the clock. Dončić scored a 14-foot two-point shot with 59 seconds left to increase their lead. With the help of a clutch free throw from teammate Dorian Finney-Smith, as well as major rebounds, Dončić and the Mavericks won the game by three points.

This level of performance continued into December, when Dončić shined in an away game against the Houston Rockets. Once again, the match came very close, but the Mavericks started to pull ahead during the fourth quarter. With just 19 seconds remaining, Dončić made a 30-foot three-point jumper to solidify the lead. The Mavericks would go on to win the game by six points, and Dončić ended the night just shy of a triple-double with 50 points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists.

The highlight of Dončić’s new wave was his 60-point triple-double against the New York Knicks on December 27, topping Wilt Chamberlain’s and Elgin Baylor’s 50-point, 20-rebound triple-doubles as well as Dirk Nowitzki’s single-game franchise scoring record of 53 points. Trailing nine points with just 33.9 seconds remaining, victory seemed impossible for Dallas, yet Dončić never gave up hope. While grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring an impressive putback layup, he was able to cut the Knicks’ lead to three points with 15.4 seconds left on the clock. After Knicks guard Miles McBride missed one of two free throws, Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie scored an important three-pointer, lowering the gap to two. This difference proved to be temporary as the Knicks’ lead once again increased to three following two free throws made by McBride. However, the Knicks made a critical mistake by putting Dončić on the foul line. After making one of his two free throws, he intentionally threw the ball against the backboard, caught his own rebound, and scored the putback shot. The game was sent into overtime, in which the Mavericks eventually won.

Throughout the season, many were not surprised by the three-time All-Star player’s abilities. Dončić has always been known to be a dominant force on the court, but his continued improvement is only confirming his undeniable work ethic. At 6’7” and 230 pounds, he towers over fellow point guards. This size advantage compensates for what many critics consider a lack of athleticism, as he has a characteristically slow playstyle in such a fast-paced NBA. Yet, it is his immense basketball IQ and versatility that distinguish him as a player. Dončić is able to effortlessly read his opponents and understands how to take advantage of his ball-handling skills to freeze defenders in their place. His patience grants him unmatched control over the game, forcing his defenders to play to his pace. Furthermore, his amazing efficiency, even with his signature off-balance shots, makes him an outstanding shooter. But even with all of the success that he has been experiencing, Dončić remains exceptionally humble. “I was just kind of a little bit lucky there. [I had] two steals, one block, five offensive rebounds, and a jump ball, too. I don’t know, man. I’m just enjoying the sport,” he said in an interview after his 60-point game against the Knicks.

Despite Dončić’s incredible level of play, his health remains a concern for long-term success. He has been ruled out of several games due to an ankle injury. Dončić has been known to start off seasons slowly before getting into game shape for the remainder of the season. For example, in the two preseason games that the Mavericks played, Dončić scored just 16 and 24 points, which are noticeably lower than his regular season averages. To truly become an all-time great, especially given his young age, he will need to work on his consistency and break this risky trend of injuries. If he manages to do so, the rest of the NBA may be in major trouble.