When Luka Dončić set out to play basketball, he never thought that he’d sign a $207 million contract extension from the Dallas Mavericks.
On Tuesday morning, at a hotel located in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Dončić signed that contract he couldn’t even dream of when he was younger. And now, for an additional five seasons, Dončić gets to continue to call Dallas his second – or third – home.
“I still don’t know what to say because I never imagined this happening,” Dončić said in Tuesday morning’s press conference. “I was only dreaming of playing in the NBA, and now I can sign an extension with the Dallas Mavericks for five more years – I never had a doubt of it.
“How I feel being in Dallas, I feel like it’s a second or third home. I feel good there.”
Dončić’s contract was a landmark deal in the NBA. In signing it, he becomes the first player ever to agree to a supermax extension directly following his rookie deal. He was eligible for the supermax extension because he made first-team All-NBA twice and was an All-Star in his second and third season.
Individual greatness has seemingly become routine for the 22-year-old superstar. However, team owner Mark Cuban wanted everyone to know that Dončić didn’t walk into this historic extension, he earned it. Through countless hours in the gym perfecting his game, his constant tenacity and will to win, and a devotion to the Mavericks that can’t be denied, Dončić forced Cuban’s hand. And Cuban respects him for it.
“When people experience the power of growth, when they have nothing and have to do it all themselves to get to where they want to go, you can see that they appreciate it more. You see that in Luka,” Cuban said. “I learned a lot from Dirk [Nowitzki], Michael Finley, and Jason [Kidd] about what it takes to be a champion. And Luka has all those same qualities. To see him blossom before our own eyes is special.”
Building a winning roster with Dončić:
Underlying Dončić’s historic run in Dallas is the necessity to build a winning team soon.
This five-year extension affords Dallas more time to find the right players to fit around Dončić. And already, Dallas feels as though it took legitimate steps towards improving this offseason.
Through retaining Tim Hardaway Jr. and signing Reggie Bullock along with Sterling Brown, Dallas believes it can mimic the success the Slovenian nation team experienced by surrounding Dončić with knock-down 3-point shooters.
“If you watched how Slovenia played, and Luka’s ability to find open shooters and play a team game, we have a lot of that now going forward,” Cuban said.
Dallas took note of what garnered Dončić’s team success on the international level. By bringing in wing shooters, the organization believes it has an authentic model for its future success moving forward.
“I think we’ve improved our team considerably,” Cuban said.
Coming from the Tokyo Olympic’s Dončić also took note of what helped his team find success. What he came away with was healthy team chemistry.
“We made some great moves in free agency, but one of the most important things to win is the chemistry. For example, in Slovenia, we had amazing chemistry the whole time, and I think that led us to winning games,” Dončić said. “That’s what we need in Dallas.”
It didn’t stop at chemistry for Dončić. He also learned about trust between teammates while competing for Olympic gold. He now aims to bring that level of trust back to Dallas next season.
“Everybody trusted everybody,” Doncic said. “Everybody had each other’s backs. That is the most important thing behind chemistry.”
Building a winner won’t be easy, but in having Dončić, Dallas has a cheat code.
Looking ahead with Dončić:
Dončić produced great basketball at a high-level way ahead of schedule. By 22, he’s won a EuroLeague MVP and an NBA Rookie of the Year award. He’s been named to multiple All-NBA first teams, and he’s tallied historic playoff statistics. What he hasn’t won includes an NBA MVP and an NBA Championship. Re-signing in Dallas indicates that he believes both can be won exactly where he’s at.
With the trust of their young superstar, the Mavericks’ only goal is winning at the highest level possible for the foreseeable future. And that goal works out just fine for both Cuban and Dončić.
“This confirms to Luka how important he is to us,” Cuban said. “This is just the beginning. We want him to know that we are there for him, whether that is here in Slovenia, in Dallas, or anywhere in the world.”
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Feature image via Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports.