Basketball: Dončić Wins Rookie of the Year (Video)

By , 25 Jun 2019, 14:26 PM Sport
Luka Dončić Luka Dončić Screenshot of the embedded video

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STA, June 25, 2019 - Slovenian basketball sensation Luka Dončić has crowned his successful first year in the NBA by being selected Rookie of the Year, to become just the second European player ever to win the accolade, after Spain's Pau Gasol in 2002.

 

Dončić is also only the fourth international player ever to win the honours in the 73-year history of the National Basketball Association (NBA), with Canada's Andrew Wiggins (2015) and Ben Simmons of Australia (2018) being the remaining two.

The latest accolade for the 20-year-old comes after he won gold with Slovenia at the 2017 EuroBasket, and the European champion title with Spain's Real Madrid in 2018. He was also named the most valuable player (MVP) of the EuroLeague that year.

After conquering Europe, Dončić was selected with the third pick in last year's NBA Draft to become a member of the rebuilding Dallas Mavericks, the team which won the championship in 2011 and which has been facing a decline since.

The Slovenian played 72 games for the Texas team to establish himself as a de facto leader as the ageing superstar Dirk Nowitzki was bidding farewell from professional basketball. The Mavericks finished the season with a 33-49 record to miss out on a playoff berth.

In the process, Dončić scored a triple double in eight games, which puts him among the best rookies ever in this department - trailing only the legendary Oscar Robertson (26 in the 1960/1961 season) and Ben Simmons (12 in the 2017/2018 season).

Named after the former Philadelphia Warriors head coach Eddie Gottlieb, the NBA Rookie of the Year trophy has been conferred since the 1952/53 season, with the best newcomers in the world's strongest basketball league being picked by reporters from the US and Canada.

As many as 16 winners of the award went on to win the league MVP award, while 19 of them who are no longer active or are deceased having already been inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Dončić has been named the NBA Rookie of the Year ahead of Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks, for whom he was swapped on the draft night to end up in the Mavericks, and last year's first pick DeAndre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns.

While the battle for the accolade with Young was close during the whole last season, Dončić nevertheless stood out with his numbers, averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6 assists to win six consecutive Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards.

By securing the averages of at least 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game four games left to play in the regular season, he became only the second rookie to reach those benchmarks in the history of the league along with Oscar Robertson.

In this respect, he was ahead of NBA greats such as Michael Jordan (28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists), Magic Johnson (18, 7.7 and 7.3) and LeBron James (20.9, 5.9 and 5.5).

Dončić is successfully taking over from Goran Dragić as the best Slovenian basketball player as Dragić is entering the last year of his four-year contract with the Miami Heat.

Dragić has so far been the best Slovenian in the NBA, with the 33-year-old from Ljubljana being named an NBA All-Star for the first time in 2018, after making the All-NBA Third Team in 2014 as a member of the Phoenix Suns.

Dončić, who is yet to become an All-Star, was close this year, coming second only to LeBron James in the fan voting portion of the selection process. He was not as favoured by the league's players and the media panel though.

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