By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
It sounds odd to the casual NBA fan, but playing in the EuroLeague Final Four for Real Madrid is a really big deal.
However, outside European borders and especially on US soil, this year’s Final Four is the “tournament in which Doncic’s plays“.
It’s not that hard to argue about the merits of European basketball, the level of competition and how it could grow, gain respect and become more mainstream even in the States. But we are far away from this and after all, it’s not the point of this text.
The cold, hard truth is that on the other side of the Atlantic, everything in Belgrade is taking a back seat to Luka Doncic. His quote about the possibility of the two EuroLeague Final Four games not being the end of his road in this competition – no matter what happens he still has to compete in Europe for the Liga Endesa championship until late June – remains the only bit of news from the event that made it to the US sports media.
Still, it’s the Final Four and not the draft that brings an enormous amount of pressure to a 19 years old kid who also happens to be the most amazing basketball talent that appeared in Europe during the last 30 years.
Will he dominate the Final Four? He might and all the NBA teams are present in Belgrade to see it. Not because they can draft Doncic, but because every self-respecting NBA franchise is scouting the final phase of the Euroleague junior tournament, which is always held on the side of the Final Four.
Can Doncic swing and miss? It’s possible.
Can the outcome of the Final Four change his draft stock? The answer is probably no.
Doncic is scouted since he left Slovenia for Real Madrid, back in 2015. Every NBA team knows him better than any US prospect and he was tested both in the EuroLeague, the top European club competition, and in the Eurobasket, the European national teams’ championship tournament. He played against grown men and he was always one of the top players of the court, alongside NBA stars and draftees like Goran Dragic, Kristaps Porzingis, Sergio Llull, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Milos Teodosic and more. Not only he held his own, but in many cases, he also emerged as the winner.
So why this Final Four is important, especially for Luka Doncic?
European sports are all about winning and failure is not accepted when you are playing for a powerhouse. You have to rise to the challenge. For clubs like Real Madrid, there’s simply not a game during the entire season in which defeat is an option. And in the end, that creates a real competitor from a young age.
Doncic is already a household name in the States and he could be thinking about the draft night without any other care in the world, but the real season for him in Europe is just starting tomorrow. And that’s why you just can’t miss the EuroLeague Final Four.