NBA fans are going to look back and remember a moment when Luka Doncic's arrival was official for them.
It'll be different, of course, for every individual. Some might point to a play from his Rookie of the Year campaign two seasons ago when Doncic burst onto the scene. For others, it might be his buzzer-beating three in the bubble that downed the Clippers in Game 4 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series. Doncic's signature step-back famously punctuated with a double "BANG" by the esteemed Mike Breen doing the play-by-play.
For yours truly, it'll be an early December game in Los Angeles when the then 20-year-old Doncic outplayed LeBron James and Anthony Davis, scoring 21 of his 27 points in the second half. The words of his coach, who has seen a thing or two after decades playing and coaching in the NBA, resonate 12 months later.
“He hit a couple of hellacious shots that only a small handful of guys in the whole world can hit,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said after the Mavs surprisingly beat the 17-2 Lakers in Staples Center. “LeBron James is one of them. [Doncic's] one of them. Those step-back 30 footers it’s hard to describe how hard the shot is and how easy he makes it look.”
A million other ridiculous highlights and a bunch of triple-doubles later following that game against LA, nobody 24 or under in the NBA is on the 21-year-old Doncic's level. You really can't argue that. In just two short seasons, he looks like he's on his way to authoring one of those mythical careers where he's known simply by his first name. Watch Doncic—or Luka like the kids prefer—in person or on TV and it takes less two minutes to realize he's not a superstar already, but he's shaping up to be transcendent. And those guys only come along once or twice a generation.
Effusive praise for Doncic aside, we all know the Association is full of young ballers who will also dominate the league for the next decade and we felt it was high time to put them in some kind of subjective order. It's Doncic at the head of the table because it has to be, but more than a few players 24 and under sitting next to him are in the infancy of authoring their own legendary career.
Of note: we went with The 24 Best NBA Players 24 and Under because we're not afraid to swerve and doing it this way made it slightly harder on ourselves since we couldn't feature heavyweights like Nikola Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis, and Karl-Anthony Towns if the list was the more prototypical 25 Best NBA Players 25 and Under. We try and do things different. Now let the arguments begin.