Nobody had dominated European basketball at such a young age the way that Luka Doncic of Real Madrid has. Doncic finished a dream Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season in the best way possible, by lifting the trophy at the end of the championship game. Doncic was named EuroLeague MVP over Final Four weekend and 24 hours later earned Final Four MVP honors. He had already been chosen as the EuroLeague Rising Star and a member of the All-EuroLeague First Team. No other player has ever won these four awards, but Doncic got them all in the same season! He was his team’s top scorer in the Final Four (15.5 ppg.) and led the full EuroLeague season in performance index rating (21.6 PIR). In this interview, Doncic spoke about the last seconds of the game, after he had fouled out and couldn’t help his team, and the joy he had after that. “It is an unforgettable moment. I was not able to be on the court in the final minutes and that made me more nervous. It is always more difficult to be on the bench than on the court,” Doncic told EuroLeague.net. “And the on-court celebration was incredible, unforgettable. There are some incredible pictures of that moment.”
Hello, Luka. Congratulations on a great Final Four. Have you had some time to think back about how much you achieved over that weekend?
“Thanks a lot. Well, not really, no. We met the King of Spain and some of us cannot still believe it! What we did was truly unbelievable and truly special. We went to the Town Hall and the Community of Madrid government on Monday to present them the trophy, which is the usual stuff we do when we win a title.”
You are the fourth player to win MVP and Final Four MVP honors in the same season, after Dimitris Diamantidis, Vassilis Spanoulis and Nando De Colo. How does it feel to be compared with them?
“It means a lot. We are talking about three huge players, some of the best players in Europe in the last few years. It is something special, different for me, and I am very, very happy.”
You had injuries all season, but the team stayed competitive. Did that make you even stronger when everyone came back?
“Definitely, and I believe it was one of the keys. We played as a team all season even when we had a lot of injuries and many problems because of that. In the end, we played together, as a team, and that was one of the keys to winning.”
You saw Sergio Llull’s recovery process. How much of an inspiration was it for everyone to keep working hard?
“Yes, and it was very important for us that he came back; we all know who he is and how he can play basketball. Having him back was also one of the keys for us to win the title. Seeing the way he worked all season, it was just very normal that he was back in time for the Final Four. I saw him work every day, so I am not surprised.”
You were down by 10 against CSKA, but the team regrouped after that. How?
“The thing is that we didn’t play that bad in that first quarter against CSKA. We didn’t hit a lot of open shots, but it was defense that allowed us to get back into the game. We improved our defense a lot in the second quarter and especially in the third.”
You were on the court when Madrid held CSKA scoreless for seven minutes of the third quarter. People know you as an offensive force, but how proud are you of being part of that game-breaking defensive effort?
“What we did is very difficult against a team like CSKA. It is very difficult to keep a team like them scoreless for seven minutes. We did a great job in the three final quarters, especially on defense.”
How important was it to play with a high rhythm all 40 minutes against Fenerbahce and to switching on defense to stop their pick-and-rolls?
“I believe that the most important thing was being tough, you know? We played with a lot of toughness, locked down our defensive boards and played good defense. It was very important to stop Kostas Sloukas, who is a key player for Fenerbahce. It was important to double-team Vesely and we did good at that, Gustavo [Ayon] did a great job double-teaming him. That stopped Vesely from making alley-oops, which was very important.”
What do you remember about Trey Thompkins’s decisive tip-in – and about the on-court celebration?
“It is an unforgettable moment. I was not able to be on the court in the final minutes and that made me more nervous. It is always more difficult to be on the bench than on the court. And the on-court celebration was incredible, unforgettable. There are some incredible pictures of that moment.”
You took a picture at Santiago Bernabeu stadium with the club staff members – doctors, press officers, team managers. How important are those often anonymous people who work hard in this win and for this club?
“They have been very, very important for me. I always say that if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to do what we did. At the end of the day, they are always there for us to help us out at any moment. They are very important to the team – and what’s even more important, they are great guys!”
You donated your Final Four jersey to the Drazen Petrovic museum. Petrovic is a legend for all Madrid fans and passed away 25 years ago. Were you aware of the anniversary?
“I knew it, yes. Petrovic was a really good player. It is incredible what he did and what he became. If I ever reach his level, it would be awesome. Drazen’s mother asked me for the jersey; she met my Mom, asked for it to put it in Drazen’s museum, and I was more than delighted to give it to her.”