NBA

Luka Doncic Reveals His Kobe Bryant Encounter Was Surprising for 1 Big Reason

The Dallas Mavericks had a rough game against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 29, 2019. Meetings between these two teams are quickly becoming must-watch television. Yet this time, the results were definitive: 108-95, Lakers. The Mavericks’ up-and-coming superstar Luka Doncic was, by his standards, shut down by the Lakers. L.A. held him to 19 points, and he was visibly frustrated for the latter half of the game. Yet he still led the highlights the next day.

How does that happen on an off day? That’s the kind of weight Kobe Bryant brings to the NBA. Even when he’s just a fan on the sidelines talking trash to Dallas’ new favorite son.

What happened between Kobe Bryant and Luka Doncic?

Luka Doncic didn't expect to have a conversation with Kobe Bryant during a game, and that wasn't even the most surprising part of what happened.
Luka Doncic (left) being great. | John McCoy/Getty Images

Luka Doncic was about to inbound the ball. Suddenly, he paused with a look of shock on his face. Then a big smile, as he turned to see a beaming Kobe Bryant. Then, they shook hands.

There’s something extra about this moment that we’ll get into shortly. First, let’s drop this interaction in context.

Doncic gets regular comparisons to recent NBA greats, including his new rival, LeBron James, and, yes, Kobe Bryant. While his short resume isn’t anywhere close to Kobe’s career accomplishments yet, he has some notches on his belt. Doncic has scored more points in this early portion of his career than either of those guys, for example.

That doesn’t come close to Kobe’s five NBA Finals wins. Doncic will never have the chance to score 33 points while being guarded by Michael Jordan. He will probably never drop 81 points in a single game. Maybe, if he stays healthy, he can put up 60 when he retires, which is hopefully a very long time from now.

The surprising way Kobe trash-talked Luka

During the game, the Kobe Bryant-Luka Doncic interaction looked like a run-of-the-mill friendly moment between a former NBA star and a current one. Afterward, Doncic revealed why he was so surprised. It wasn’t just because he turned around to see Kobe Bryant sitting there. Kobe got his attention by speaking in Luka’s native Slovenian.

Whatever was said, the gesture of speaking to Doncic in his language can’t be understated. It’s not just game recognizing game. It’s an all-time great player showing a younger guy that he’s giving him serious thought off the court, too.

Luka won’t reveal what Kobe said to him. He’s not one to mince words. In the same interview, he talked about how incredible Kobe was. How it was formative to grow up watching him play. But he still makes sure to clear up who his number one favorite is: LeBron James.

That likely means Luka wasn’t just being nice when he said Kobe had a great Slovenian accent.

Why it’s not shocking that Kobe Bryan speaks Slovenian

As far as anyone knows, Kobe Bryant does not speak fluent Slovenian. But his general command of foreign languages is likely a boon for learning some key phrases with proper pronunciation.

He’s fluent in Spanish, Italian, and English. He even took the opportunity to address fans and players in all three languages during his final press conference with the Lakers.

Kobe was known to indulge in trash talk as a player. But he’s equally noted for putting in the extra mile with learning languages to properly communicate with his peers. He likely learned at least a few Slovenian phrases from former teammate Sasha Vujacic.

His knack for languages is one of Bryant’s talents that serve him well in his post-NBA career. This multi-lingual, Academy Award-winning former superstar has much more to offer society than his abilities on the court. Luka Doncic knows that first hand.