At just 22 years of age, Luka Doncic has become one of the best basketball players on the planet. Although his Dallas Mavericks were bounced in the first round of this year’s NBA playoffs, the young star has quickly turned around to play for his native Slovenia in Olympic qualifying.
Doncic has been a major part of the national team’s success this summer, leading the way in Slovenia’s comfortable wins over Angola and Poland. He followed that up by racking up 23 points, nine rebounds and 13 assists in a 98-70 victory over Venezuela on Saturday.
Doncic has been passionately outspoken about his desire to play for Slovenia in the past and has already played a key role in elevating the national team’s standing around the world. An answer that he gave to a question this weekend showed just how much representing his homeland means to him.
When asked what would mean more to him, winning a gold medal with Slovenia or winning an NBA championship, Doncic seemed to have a clear preference.
“I’d say gold medal with Slovenia. You play for your country and that’s something… but I wouldn’t mind both,” Doncic said in a Saturday press conference.
Luka Doncic was asked what would mean more to him: A gold medal with Slovenia or NBA championship.
"I'd say gold medal with Slovenia. You play for your country and that's something… but I wouldn't mind both." pic.twitter.com/zgDxGA3dYI
— Antonis Stroggylakis (@AStroggylakis) July 3, 2021
A handful of basketball fans on Twitter used Doncic’s latest quote as a way to go after him for his lack of success so far in the NBA playoffs. The Mavericks were bounced in the first round for a second consecutive year despite a heroic effort from the Slovenian star.
He’s just saying that cause he can’t make it out the first round🤣
— 𝘛𝘺 🌦 (@HatingTyy) July 3, 2021
However, most of the sentiment on social media was in favor of the Slovenian star. The European country has never made the Olympics in basketball and Doncic could be the one to break that drought this year.
If the 22-year-old somehow carried Slovenia to a gold medal, he’d be revered as a national hero.
— vinko vasle novinar (@vinkovasle1) July 4, 2021
I’m sure most if not all non-American NBA players feel the same way — gold medals becoming standard fare for the US basketball teams plus a lack of team cohesion year to year has made it feel less special. https://t.co/wuZOZ6POy6
— Ti Windisch (@TiWindisch) July 4, 2021
winning a gold medal for the us doesn’t mean much. but winning for a small country like slovenia would lowkey be a bigger accomplishment than an nba championship
— 𝙇𝙪𝙠𝙚 ⚡️ (@lcdc2k) July 3, 2021
Doncic and Slovenia will have an uphill battle to get into the gold medal game, but can officially claim their spot in the Tokyo Olympics with a win on Sunday over Lithuania.