CHICAGO — Even for a kid from Slovenia, this Chicago-style first 24 hours as an NBA All-Star in the Windy City was about as monumental as it gets.
Luka Doncic rubbed elbows with not one, but two local icons within a two-hour period on this frigid Friday. He got a full minute of face time with former President Barack Obama, then at a different All-Star event he was introduced to a full ballroom by Bill Murray.
Those were indelible preludes to Friday night, when Mavericks second-year point guard Doncic scored 16 points and dealt five assists as his Team World fell to Team USA 151-131 in the Rising Stars game at United Center.
“It was fun,” he said of the game, during which, most important to the Mavericks, he played 24 minutes without signs of the ankle sprain that recently caused him to miss seven games. “The fans love dunks, they love those long 3s and all that fun stuff.”
The night’s longest was Doncic’s 46-foot trey over Trae — Young, that is — just before the halftime buzzer, a shot Doncic said he called during the previous time out.
“I was the one who told him to shoot the half-courter,” Young said. “He was about to pass and I was like, ‘You better shoot this halfcourt shot.’ He did and it went in. It was just a crazy moment.”
What else might be on Doncic’s All-Star weekend agenda before he makes his All-Star Game debut on Sunday night, as a Team LeBron starter? Deep-dish pizza with Oprah? Numb-hands batting practice at Wrigley Field?
Actually, Doncic does plan to meet another Chicago great, his Airness, Michael Jordan, sometime on Saturday, adding to an already exhilarating weekend, two weeks before his 21st birthday.
“Just to be here in the All-Star [weekend] is something special,” he said. “I always dreamed about it as a kid. And now I’m here and it still feels unreal. It’s maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I want to enjoy it.”
Doncic arrived in Chicago on Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s plane on Thursday night, along with his mother, grandmother and valentine, girlfriend Anamaria Goltes.
Doncic began his Friday with breakfast, then headed to Wintrust Arena for Rising Stars media interviews and a short Team World practice.
Team World interviews were scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., but in front of the podium set up for Doncic, a mass of reporters staked positions a full 30 minutes before his arrival. Doncic took questions for 13 minutes, answering in English, Spanish and Slovene.
He was asked about New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson (”He’s a different beast; I don’t think we’ve seen a player like him“); the rise of European NBA stars (”I think the world can see that we can play basketball, too“); and whether he has a valentine (”Yeah“).
Williamson, too, was asked about reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Doncic. “He’s a great all-around basketball player. He’s a walking triple-double. He facilitates the game and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Between their interview sessions and practices, the World and USA squads went to a meeting room on Wintrust Arena’s mezzanine level to take part in the 13th NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service, helping Chicago students pack more than 500 backpacks with school supplies.
Everyone was busy packing when President Obama entered to smiles and gasps and one teenage girl who broke into tears. Obama made his way around the room, greeting students, NBA players, coaches and NBA legends.
Doncic was sitting at a table with several students and Jason Kidd, the Lakers assistant coach and Naismith Hall of Famer. Like Doncic, Kidd as a Maverick earned Rookie of the Year honors (1995) and was voted an All-Star starter in his second season.
“What’s going on over here?” Obama asked as he approached the table, then straight to Doncic, who rose from his chair. “What’s going on, mate?”
And how did Doncic feel, seeing the former leader of the free world walking toward him with a smile and his hand outstretched?
“He just came to me and introduced himself. Obviously I knew who he was. He just said ‘You did a fantastic job.’ That really inspired me.”
Number 44’s interaction with No. 77 lasted longer than with any other person in the room. Obama and Doncic shook hands and hugged. Obama continued to shake Doncic’s hand while commending him for his hard work and for setting a good example.
“It was a pleasure,” Doncic recalled later. “It was really nice meeting him.”
Obama then pointed to Kidd, referring to him as Mr. Kidd.
“This guy knows how to pass the ball,” Obama said, hugging and referring to Kidd, but still talking to Doncic. Obama paused before delivering the zinger. “But don’t listen to J-Kidd when it comes to shooting.”
Obama returned to Doncic’s side and spoke quietly to him for another half-minute, before continuing around the room.
Doncic practiced with Team World, hurriedly cleaned up, donned jeans and a blue long-sleeve button-down, and headed to the Hyatt Hotel and the 21st NBA All-Star Technology Summit.
Doncic took was part of a panel discussion titled “Ahead of the Game: The Fan Experience Reimagined.”
Joining Doncic on stage were fellow panelists Charles Barkley, Chris Paul, WNBA star Candace Parker, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro, Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé and WarnerMedia chairman Jeff Zucker.
Each panelist was introduced to the audience of several hundred by actor-comedian Murray.
“Formerly known as the Round Mound of Rebound,” Murray said of Barkley. “Now he’s just known as the Round Mound.”
Murray apparently was confused about the order of Doncic’s itinerary, but made his point just the same.
“Luka is really fun to watch,” Murray said. “He’s an NBA All-Star guard from the Dallas Mavericks. Right now he’s got to rush out of here and go to Rising Stars practice. Chill, baby. You’re already a star.”
Doncic said he was well-aware of who Murray is: “He’s a funny guy. I’ve watched a lot of him. He always makes jokes and it was a pleasure to meet him.”
Chilling wasn’t hard to do on a day that began with a temperature of 1 degree above zero, slowly climbed to the mid-teens and was back to single digits by the start of the Rising Stars game.
For Doncic, there are more chills, and thrills, ahead.