The word “genius” is used far too freely. It’s a platitude at this point, at risk of losing the grandeur that helped it survive its Latin etymology, where it went from referring to a guardian that watched over a chosen person, to a prophetic individual, to someone naturally capable of great deeds. Its current definition is traced back to the 1640s. Here in 2023, it’s a lazy catch-all most of the time, its luster minimized by the ordinary it is usually synonymous with.
To witness a real genius these days is to stand out so much from the crowd that platitudes suddenly become relevant again. The only part of the definition that might not apply to the case of Luka Doncic is the “natural” aspect. That implies he didn’t work to be able to play genius-level basketball.
He did. He worked hard.
He became a pro at the age of 13. He was required to leave his hometown of Ljubljana, Slovenia, for Madrid, Spain. There the work commenced, and it continues now, a decade later, on a grand scale, in Dallas, TX.
He looks like a genius because of the way he plays basketball. He seems to see the unseen. Whether his passes come from predicting or reacting, can’t really be said for certain. And whether or not he feels the usual chest-tightening sensation that clutch end-of-game situations carry with them is something only he can tell the world. But from the outside, we view the spectacle of his game as genius, as prophetic, and as his nickname suggests, magic.
Of course, these praises could be considered more hollow platitudes. There are plenty of great performances every single night in the NBA. Doncic has separated himself through two factors: youth and consistency.
Ever since Luka entered the NBA as a 19-year-old, he’s regularly dominated, with career averages of 27/8/8. This year’s 34/9/9 has been accomplished in the Jordan Luka 1. The silhouette challenged the Brand’s designers enough to make the IsoPlate and Formula 23, two new technologies, just for him.
They respect his genius that much.
Photos via Getty Images.