Why Luka Was Almost First Signee of 'Team LeBron' Nike Brand

Why Was Luka Doncic Almost The First Signee of 'Team LeBron' Nike Brand? Because James Loves the Dallas Mavericks Star Just That Much
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DALLAS - Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic has had the fourth-year option on his rookie contract picked up, thus guarantee him his $10.17 million salary for the 2021-22 season. He's been anointed by the NBA with a national-TV showcase against LeBron James on Christmas Night.

Need more news about the ascension of the Slovenian Sensation?

LeBron James calls Luka one of his "favorite'' players because Doncic plays the game, in the Lakers star's estimation the way he himself does ... with an unselfish "joy.''

All of which is why James, in this interview, says it was his plan to start "Team LeBron'' brand for Nike ... and to have Doncic as his first representative.

Said LeBron: He's "team-first ... I play for the team and with a sense of joy ... When Luka going through his (shoe) contract (negotiations), I wanted to begin 'Team LeBron' and have Luka as my first signing. 

"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.''

This is ... rather epic. ... but just a continuation of what we know, from the contract to the Christmas showcase to the championship talk.

Here's the entire transcript - well worth a read ...

"Luka is one of my favorite players in the NBA today. 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. 

"When Luka was going through his contract negotiations with Nike, and you saw him at one point he would wear Jordans, and started wearing the other brands on his feet during practices … I wanted to begin 'Team LeBron' and have Luka as my first signing with Nike. 

"This is what I wanted, and I don’t believe my guys at Nike were ready for that. Obviously they were not, because he ended up going to Jordan, and I don’t even know if Luka knows this, but he would know it now. I wanted Luka to be the first signing of Team LeBron when he was going through his situation. And it didn’t happen, he’s still under the same umbrella of Nike’s with Jordan, but I wanted him to be (with Team LeBron) ...

"That’s how much I believe in him, and I feel like it's going to haunt me a little bit. But I wanted him to be my guy, I wanted him to be my first guy because I just love what he stands for. I love everything about him both on the court and off the court. He’s just a great guy.''

The contract is not a "decision'' any more than breathing is a decision; it's a paperwork formality and part of a process that will see Doncic, 21 and an All-Star starter and leading Most Valuable Player candidate, make $8.05 million this year (his third season) ... a continuation of a path that will obviously some day earn him a $200-million-plus contract.

And speaking of no-brainers ...

The Mavs vs. the Los Angeles Lakers is reportedly a prime-time game - well, the prime-time game - on Christmas ... Where the NBA wishes to showcase the best.

Luka vs. one of his idols, LeBron, is exactly that.

Dallas' acceleration to contention has largely been driving by Doncic, the Slovenian sensation who was the third pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He's now coming off a first-team All-NBA season during which he averaged 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists. The investment in his future is a wise one.

Said coach Rick Carlisle of his young star: "He's 21,'' Carlisle said. "He's getting better all the time. His game continues to be more and more refined each year in all areas, and so he's a special player. He's a special person. He's a special leader on our team."

READ MORE: Mavs Camp: Doncic Meets 'The Dawgs'

READ MORE: Mavs Camp Preview Donuts: How High, Luka?

READ MORE: Luka: On Beating COVID To Being The Champ

Doncic's big payday will come later (likely next summer when he's eligible for a rookie-scale extension). Again, as another part of the path, comes his goal. 

"I want to win the championship,'' Doncic said. "And that's the goal we're going to enter this year as a whole group."

In the meantime, he's already won something immensely valuable: The respect of LeBron James.