Luka Doncic hasn't played even half an NBA season and Mark Cuban has used his generational talent to a riff on the state of amateur basketball in the United States. Yes, Luka has played better than advertised as the reigning EuroLeague MVP and Final Four MVP with a step-back jumper out of your dreams. But he's not an example for why the AAU system or American basketball as a whole ruins players.
Except, that's pretty much what Cuban told EuroHoops when he claimed that, "If we took our best kids and seven years before they are McDonald’s all-American, we sent them over to Slovenia to get an education, the league would be a thousand times better."
Has Cuban even been to Slovenia, or are they a stand-in because Luka happens to have been born within the boundaries of their nation-state? Aside from Goran Dragic, and maybe Ben Odrih or pesky Sasha Vujacic, most NBA heads couldn't name a single other player from the tiny Eastern European country. There's a solid chance Cuban couldn't find it on a map, either.
Here's the full quote from Cuban when asked about the importance of Doncic's European basketball upbringing:
It is important because you’re used to people being older than you but I think he just learned how to play basketball and that’s the biggest gift. When you’re gifted as he is and you actually learn to play the game. If you look at the basketball education of kids starting at 11-years old in Europe and particularly Slovenia which is basketball oriented.
If we took our best kids and seven years before they are McDonald’s all-American, we sent them over to Slovenia to get an education, the league would be a thousand times better. They just learn how to play basketball while our guys learn how to taunt and put together mixtapes
That last bit oozes condescension. The AAU system has issues, but they primarily stem from the NBA's outdated age minimum and the misguided belief in student-athletes, which is really just a way for colleges to tap into the only remaining legal form of indentured servitude.
But Cuban did have a point when he was asked about what impressed him the most about Luka's game, which doubles as a referendum on Cuban's on personality.
"He’s calm. He lets the game come to him," Cuban says. "The moment’s never too big for him. You never see that in a rookie. Ever."
But, if that's the case, Cuban's the antithesis of his star player.