At 33 years old and in his 16th season, LeBron James is starting to play against rookies who grew up watching and idolizing him. One of them is Luka Doncic, who was the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and has gotten off to a strong start.
Through seven games with the Dallas Mavericks, Doncic is averaging 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 35.7 minutes.
Ahead of the Lakers hosting the Mavericks, James is not surprised by Doncic’s early play and believes European players have an edge over American players, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:
“I think European players develop faster than NBA guys, meaning American players. I think he’s been in the pro-development stage since he was 15, so I don’t think this is intimidating to him. I don’t think this game is anything he’s seen before. I think that’s the best thing about European basketball, pro basketball, they develop their players so early.”
While there will be debates, this is not the first time an NBA superstar has made these type of comments. Kobe Bryant, who spent his childhood in Italy, has previously discussed how European basketball is more skilled and physical than the NBA.
Although it is a small sample size, Doncic is proving why many projected him as the No. 1 pick before the Phoenix Suns ultimately selected Deandre Ayton. While there is a certain narrative about selecting international players early, James and Bryant are trying to change that by speaking up for them.