LeBron James sees a lot of himself in Luka Doncic.
The Lakers superstar has said as much on multiple occasions since Doncic entered the NBA in 2018 with the Mavericks. James and Doncic will forever sit in the record books as two of the most impressive teenagers in league history. Of course, James, 35, has added onto those impressive early seasons with championships and MVP awards.
Doncic, 21, still has plenty of time to reach all those heights. In the meantime, though, the pair faces off on Christmas Day in 2020, and James will be matched up with a kindred basketball spirit.
“Luka is one of my favorite players in the NBA today,” James said on the Road Trippin’ podcast earlier this month. “For the simple fact of, the way I play the game is exactly how I love the way he plays the game. Team-first, gets his guys involved, if you challenge me to score, I’m gonna score. And at the same time, I’m gonna score, but I’m gonna keep my guys involved. … I play for the team, and I’m gonna play with a sense of joy.”
The comparison game is a dangerous trap that many fall into, but it’s easy to see how James and Doncic align. They’re both the size of small forwards but play lots of point guard, frequently drawing the “point forward” label. They both had dominant stretches in the NBA before they could legally sip alcohol in the United States. They both can get a bucket whenever they want yet consistently try to involve their less-talented teammates.
James became so enamored with Doncic during his first two NBA seasons that the future Hall of Famer wanted to bring Doncic along with him to Nike when Doncic was still searching for a shoe deal.
“When Luka was going through his (shoe) contract (negotiations), I wanted to begin ‘Team LeBron’ and have Luka as my first signing,” James said on the Road Trippin’ podcast. “I don’t even think Luka knows this. But he will know it now. … That’s how much I believe in him. I just love what he stands for, on the court and off the court.”
Doncic eventually signed with Nike and the Air Jordan line. That likely won’t lose James’ admiration, though, which he’s summed up in far simpler terms in the past. After one huge Doncic game during the 2019-20 season, James posted on his Instagram story that Doncic is a “BAD MOFO!!!!!”
Doncic has reciprocated some of the praise, calling James his “idol” on multiple occasions. That even made Doncic “nervous” the first time he met up with James, although Doncic’s stellar play in his first two NBA seasons has likely gotten rid of many of the nerves.
Pretty soon, the next generation of basketball stars may be calling Doncic their idol. It’s a fitting passing of the torch, one do-it-all force to another. Based on everything James has said about Doncic, he’s surely happy that one of the next faces of the NBA is so much like him.
“I love his game, his ability to not only create shots for himself; but you guys know I love the fact that he can get great looks for his teammates,” James said, per NBA.com. “That’s what I thrive on, that’s what I’ve always believed in, and he just plays the game the right way.”
LeBron James vs. Luka Doncic stats
Entering the 2020-21 season, Doncic has played two years in the NBA. Those were his age-19 and age-20 seasons, which is convenient because James’ first two years in the NBA were also his age-19 and age-20 seasons.
Below, we’ve compiled the combined statistics of Doncic and James across their first two years in the NBA.
|Player||Years||Games||Field Goal %||Free Throw %||3-Point %||3-Pointers Per Game||Rebounds Per Game||Assists Per Game||Steals Per Game||Blocks Per Game||Points Per Game|