It’s over America. The tipping point has been reached. Your reign as the best basketball country in the world has officially ended. With an emphatic thunderclap.
The undisputed two best players on Earth, Nikola “The Joker” Jokic and Luka “The Legend” Doncic, are from Serbia and Slovenia which last time I checked are not in the United States.
And it’s not even close.
Dame Time, Steph Curry, Joel Embiid, and Kevin Durant are great players. But no one can make a case right now that any of them are as unbelievably talented and prolific as 27-year-old Joker and 23-year-old legend.
What the hell is going on with these guys? Europeans aren’t supposed to dominate the NBA. Not like these two have been this season.
But they are in ways that are mind-boggling. I could share a slew of their staggering stats but here are a few to note. The other night Joker had 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists while shooting 93 percent from the field, 13 of 14. He’s averaging a triple-double and laying down stats that only Wilt Chamberlain has achieved.
In the previous game, he made the game-winning buzzer beat from three. He’s on his way to winning the NBA’s MVP for the third straight year.
Luka has poured in 40 or more points in nine games this season. In one game he scored 60 points with 21 rebounds and 10 assists – a stat line that only a handful of players in NBA history have ever reached.
So what’s going on in Europe? I believe there are several reasons for the meteoric rise to the top of these two guys that will propel dozens more European guys to big stardom in the NBA and dominate such as 18-year-old sensation Victor Wembanyama, the 7 feet three-inch prodigy from France.
Reason 1: European coaches teach their grade school and high school players how to pass the ball much more diligently and effectively than they do in the U.S. high school all-star leagues (AAU etc.). I never thought I would ever say this, but the Joker is a better passer than Larry Bird, one of the best I’ve ever seen.
This compliment doesn’t even do him justice. Joker is the best passer of anyone who has ever played basketball. Watch this videotape. You’ll see a non-stop mesmerizing and baffling entertainment, basketball player like you never have in your life:
Let me reiterate the point. This guy passes the basketball better than anyone ever has. The angles, the precision, the anticipation, the speed, the instincts – all beyond human understanding. The way he passes isn’t really doable but he somehow does it anyway.
Reason 2: Europeans practice shooting more than Americans. Both these superstars make an astounding percentage of their long-range shots. You can’t do this without practicing these shots endlessly growing up and being taught the proper mechanics for doing so. There are a few Americans who practice and shoot with great form and accuracy such as Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Dame Time Lillard. But the vast majority of American NBA players don’t shoot well from the outside.
I think it’s because they practice dunking more and making flashy plays in high school all-star leagues instead of putting in the time to be deadly sharpshooters from outside.
Reason 3: Europeans learn more offensive moves than Americans. Watch these crazy cool Luka Legend highlights:
He’s got the full arsenal of offensive moves that hardly any American players possess: the cross-over step-back 3; the hesitation stutter-step move to the basket; the alley-oop tear-drop pass; the drives to the left and right side of the basket; the back-down the lane pull up in your face jumper; the spin move fade away in the lane; the underhand scoop layup.
Name one American player who can do all of these things well. Maybe Steph Curry or Trae Young but that’s about it and even those two aren’t in Luka’s league in terms of the size of his bag of tricks.
I believe European players like Wembanyama are practicing all these moves and using them in games because they’re being taught how to do them by their coaches who emphasize the importance of these basketball fundamentals.
I don’t believe the great preponderance of American players are learning these fundamentals as well nor practicing them as much as the Europeans.
You can see where this is going. As the years go by, a growing number of these multi-skilled players from European are going to become better than Americans at playing basketball. And then what? Will we one day have the European Basketball Association instead of the National Basketball Association?
Reason 4: I believe the Europeans work harder and are hungrier to be great basketball players than Americans. If you’re six foot seven playing basketball in Europe and you can’t jump high and lack quickness, you’d better develop a lot of other skills to become to be attractive enough for an NBA team to draft you.
If you’re six foot seven playing basketball in America and you can jump high and are quick, you’re being taught more how to dunk and fire 3 points from long range but not so much how to dribble and pass and beat your man to the basketball with clever offensive moves that require practice instead of the ability to rise high and jam the ball through the rim.
Put another way, European basketball players want to be great more than Americans want to be great and put forth more effort to reach elite levels.
Consider Jokic and Doncic. Neither of them is particularly quick nor can jump high. Yet they’re better players than everyone else who has those jumping and quickness skills. Why? Because they have more types of skills that translate to playing basketball better. They know how to play the game effectively and efficiently.
Imagine a European team led by Joker and Luka. Add the Greek Freak from Greece to this squad. Thrown in a couple more good Europeans now in the NBA. That starting five would be more formidable – and would win a seven-game series – against the five best American players such as Duran, Curry, Dame Time, Embiid, and LeBron. It wouldn’t surprise me if the series was a sweep for Europe.
You know I’m right. You know these two European superstars are the clearest indication we’ve ever had America’s reign as the emperors of basketball has come to an end.
And this is a positive paradigm shift for the betterment of basketball overall. Watching Jokic and Doncic play basketball is more entertaining because they get their teammates involved, know how to hit them with backdoor bounce passes (maybe the most beautiful play in the sport), and use all the various skills that the game of basketball is supposed to involve.
They play the game the right way, to the fullest extent, beyond a narrow set of capabilities. All-around basketball savants, they let us see their genius come through all over the court, with or without the ball, no matter who they’re playing against or with, every single night.
It’s basketball at its best.
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:
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