Luka Doncic smiled and slowly nodded as the 15,000 inside Real Madrid’s WiZink Center erupted around him.
His long, looping three-point shot had seemed to hang in mid-air, leaving fans open-mouthed as they tracked its progress; long enough, straight enough, sure enough. The ball rippled through the net.
The rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona is known the world over as one of football’s fiercest, and El Clasico burns red hot in basketball, too.
Doncic’s long-range buzzer-beater at the end of the third period against Barcelona in December 2017 was as spectacular as anything Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo produced on the football pitch. Then aged 18, he was already being described as the most promising prospect Europe has produced.
His numbers in that game – 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists – were modest by his own standards. But the poise and precision, the confidence behind that knowing smile, were signs he would soon outgrow the EuroLeague. The teenager’s potential seemed boundless.