Understandably, Slovenians are obsessed with Luka Doncic; The amazing prodigy who has broken basketball records at every turn of his career, an international ambassador for their unfamiliar country, the Ljubljana-born native, who often displays his national pride.
Recently, the Dončić craze in Slovenia has reached new heights. Luka Štucin, an announcer for a prominent TV station in the country, realized this when emails started coming in. He could learn something from the names of the people who wrote to him and the way they asked the questions – and interestingly, from the email domain.
“It’s all Hotmail,” Štucin said. “It was the old man who wrote to me.”
Slovenia is seven hours ahead of Dallas, which means evening games scheduled here start in the middle of the night there.However, Štucin said the emails asked him about how to watch NBA: How can I get your cable channels? What if I only have one antenna?
“We all know that grandmother fell asleep at six o’clock at night,” Štucin said. “It’s very special for the grandmothers to stay up all night watching Luca.”
Iztok Franco begins writing Mavericks An analysis of this season’s Dallas D Magazine.He lives in the country’s capital, Ljubljana, but First time in Dallas Earlier this year — his group chat was filled with discussions about Doncic and the Mavericks playoffs.when dallas lost their first two games phoenix suns During the last series, he became a psychotherapist for worried fans who asked him to explain why Dončić and his team were struggling.
“For some people (during this season), there’s so much Luka news, too much Luka highlights, and they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s just one thing,'” he said. “[But in the playoffs]they know the context, they know it’s important.”
When the Mavericks started their afternoon games overseas during prime evening hours, Štucin said the broadcast had more viewership than any other North American sport — even the European Football League. Still, what’s happening now has the small nation involved in anything he’s ever seen.
Štucin gets asked questions about Dončić wherever he goes, especially when people spot or recognize him as a sports broadcaster.
“The first time you meet someone, they ask you what you think of Luka,” he said. “You meet someone you haven’t seen in ten years, and they ask you about Luca. Bartender, they ask you about Luca. Shopping for shoes at the mall, and they ask you about Lucca.”
When he started his basketball podcast “Dvokorak,” he and his co-hosts Tilen Lamut and Matija Kosmač wanted to avoid talking only about Dončić. Lately, even they can’t avoid it.
“For Luka, the whole country has been talking about him for a long time now,” said Damir Rajanovic, marketing director of the Slovenian Basketball Federation. “It’s been going on for five, six, seven years. To be such a talented, such a good basketball player, to be the kind of guy the whole country has been talking about for years about you, I think it shows how much Luka is in every way. special.”
When he was young, Franco would stay up early in the morning to watch games. These days, he prefers to wake up at 7am to quietly rewatch them a few hours after they’re done.
“(It’s) a process on the NBA app,” he said with a laugh. “You have to hide the score, but you don’t have to look at the whole screen just in case.”
Franco’s basketball writing made him less moody when watching sports, but even his routine didn’t work the morning after the Mavs’ Game 7 against the Phoenix Suns. He found himself waking up at 5:30 in the morning, realised he couldn’t fall back asleep, and started watching the game.
And yet, for every Franco, for every Slovenian who is content to watch only highlights in the morning, there are many more like Yul Draxla, who can’t help waking up in the middle of the night, Witnessed Doncic trying to make his first conference final. Even though he’s currently hundreds of miles from his birth country as a strength and conditioning coach at Russian club UNICS Kazan, Draxlar is equally obsessed with Doncic’s playoff run.
For him, it was even more personal than sharing nationality with Doncic.Two summers ago, before the NBA resumed in Orlando, Draxla Working with Doncic While he waited for the game to resume. What struck him at the time was Doncic’s ever-present joy, a constant feeling that runs through nearly every workout.
“He just fell in love with basketball,” Draxlar said. “It was a big surprise for me initially.”
When Doncic scored 27 points in the first half against the Suns, grinning after every shot, Draxla couldn’t help laughing. “Especially when you know him a little bit,” he said. “You can’t do something different.” He tweeted with Slovenia national team player Luka Rupnik, a close friend of Doncic Texting, the latter texted him at one point, “This is so funny.” It’s a feeling the whole Slovenian feels.
In the previous playoffs, the Slovenian was beaten by Doncic’s Hassle-free water bottle flips. In past series, that’s how Doncic has reacted to being provoked. “It looks like they’ve pissed him off, and that’s where Luka lives,” Štucin said. “once Devin Booker Say, ‘Luca series’, and it’s over. “
Franco’s group chat echoed the same message. They irritated him, the feeling has always been – they demanded it. Confidence in Doncic is so great that Franco’s friends can’t believe Doncic won’t drop 40 points.
“What struck me was how easy it was,” Štucin said. “He was shaking his head and was like, ‘You can’t protect me, you can’t protect me.’ We were impressed, and it was really hard for him to impress us.”
Doncic may already be the greatest athlete in the country, and that’s not something to take for granted. Slovenia’s sporting achievements far exceed its population of 2 million: their athletes have won the Tour de France, Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medals, Serie A Over the past decade, titles and more.It’s hard to understand how this country is united around their success stories No visit required.
But Doncic’s trajectory is different. None of their athletes have been so good, so talented, so well-loved so quickly. Even grandma never woke up in the middle of the night to see him. It was Štucin who told me that, in fact, Dončić was already the best in the country. “I don’t think it’s even close, man,” he said. There is no doubt that Dončić is trying to bring others down.
Doncic and Mavericks lose Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, 112-87 Golden State Warriors, but there will still be Slovenians waking up at 3am to watch the second game. Those closest to him never doubted that these moments would come.
“I don’t know what to tell you unless we warn you,” Rađenović said cheerfully. “We told you what would happen when Luka was selected. I guess only a few people in Europe believed in us. But we’ll just have to wait.”
(Photo: Christian Peterson/Getty Images)