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Dallas Mavericks

Is Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic the greatest 20-year-old in NBA history?

Luka-20-year-old-graphic-NBAcom-Illustration
Is Luka the best 20-year-old ever? (NBA.com Illustration)

The moment Dallas motioned to acquire Luka Doncic in the 2018 NBA Draft, we knew the Mavericks had found the guy who would one day develop into their franchise player.

It didn't take long to realize that at 19-years-old, he already was one.

One season after taking the league by storm, Doncic is making unprecedented leaps as a player, even by his standards.

Luka has already emerged from the 'star' stage, going from standout rookie to bonafide superstar and potential MVP candidate, provided the team success follows.

These aren't labels that we place on just any 20-year-old.

In fact, it's LeBron James - Doncic's idol, no less - that is the last 20-year-old that without question warranted a 'superstar' label, and even he wasn't doing some of the things that we're seeing from Doncic.

Take a step back to realize that while it's his second year in the NBA, it's Luka's sixth year as a pro, which contributes to his poise and serves as an encouraging reminder that this hot start to his sophomore season is more than sustainable.

He just knows how to compete at this level.

LeBron even said as much last season:

"I don't think [the NBA game] is intimidating to him. I don't think this game is something he hasn't seen before. That's the best thing about European basketball, pro basketball over there, they develop their players so early."

This season, after Doncic recorded a monster triple-double with 31 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds against James and the Lakers, he and his idol shared a special moment once the game ended.

The praise speaks for itself.

It's early, but Doncic is in rare air given his age and circumstance. So much so, that it begs the question:

Is Luka Doncic the best 20-year-old…ever?

In league history, out of a large pool of players with international backgrounds like Doncic, players that have come straight from high school like LeBron and players that spent a short amount of time in college, just eight others have made an All-Star Game at age 20 or younger - a group Luka looks to join this February.

If being an All-Star is the prerequisite for consideration, let's take a look at how Doncic measures up with each one:

Player Season Stats Start?
Luka Doncic 2019-20 28.5 PTS, 10.7 REB, 9.1 AST -
Anthony Davis 2013-14 20.8 PTS, 10.0 REB, 2.8 BLK No
Kyrie Irving 2013-13 22.5 PTS, 5.9 AST, 3.7 REB No
LeBron James 2004-05 27.2 PTS, 7.4 REB, 7.2 AST Yes
Kobe Bryant* 1997-98 15.4 PTS, 3.1 REB, 2.5 AST Yes
Kevin Garnett 1996-97 17.0 PTS, 8.0 REB, 3.1 AST No
Shaquille O'Neal 1992-93 23.4 PTS, 13.9 REB, 1.9 AST Yes
Isiah Thomas 1981-82 17.0 PTS, 7.8 AST, 2.9 REB Yes
Magic Johnson 1979-80 18.0 PTS, 7.7 REB, 7.3 AST Yes

There was no All-Star Game in Kobe Bryant's 20-year-old season (1998-99), where he averaged 19.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

Magic Johnson's 20-year-old season culminated with him winning Finals MVP after a legendary performance in the Lakers' series-clinching win but it was his teammate, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, that took home league MVP honours in 1980 and was still the clear-cut top man in Los Angeles.

Doncic's case for being the best 20-year-old this league has ever seen stems from unequivocally being the top talent in Dallas and making a legitimate case towards being considered as the league's Most Valuable Player.

While it being early could work against Doncic's favour with respect to sustaining his insane averages, it works in his favour with respect to his place in the history books.

Luka's birthday falls 12 days after the 2020 All-Star Game but he already has the NBA record for most triple-doubles and most 30-point triple-doubles before turning 21-years-old.

More than Magic. More than LeBron. With plenty of time to add more.

In addition to holding those records, he is also the youngest player to record a 30-point triple-double at The Mecca that is Madison Square Garden, the basketball haven where legends are born and solidified.

The legend of Luka Doncic grows with each passing game as he continues to find new ways to impress. Adding to the mystique is that in his second season, he has taken a position change in stride, seamlessly transitioning into being a full-time point guard and striving, as evidenced by his numbers.

The beauty of Doncic's game stems from its intricacies, which are the elements from others' games that he has adopted and made his own, like

A step back reminiscent of that of James Harden

Passes that only he and LeBron are capable of making

All while adding his own personal flair

Luka Doncic is doing things that we've never seen from a 20-year-old. Ever.

He's scoring more than KD and Shaq did, dishing out more assists than Magic and LeBron, and while he might not end up winning the Finals MVP in 2020, Doncic is without question building a compelling case for a spot on every single MVP ladder.

The scary part? Being 20 means that he'll only continue to get better as this season - and the years - pass by.

Watch out.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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