Luka Doncic says it doesn’t bother him that he is labeled “not a great athlete,” but in the next breath he gives you a reason to suggest that maybe that tag is an annoyance.

“I’m athletic in different ways they don’t see,” the Dallas Mavericks All-Star forward said Tuesday after his team’s practice, shortly before they departed to Boston to play in the NBA Finals.

“Not everything is jumping and running fast,” he said.

A point that all of us can easily forget, or choose to ignore. When it comes to Doncic, and so many other players, he is wrongly labeled as an inferior athlete based on lazy stereotypes.

Just use the Google machine to find some “winners.”

From the website, “” from Australia is the entire story, “Luka Dončić has proven that athleticism is not that important.”

Former NBA player Mike James told EssentiallySports, “We’re lucky Luka’s not athletic.”

During the pre-NBA draft process in 2018, The Ringer’s scouting report of Doncic included, “Average agility and lateral
quickness. … Doesn’t create a ton of separation when turning the corner on drives due to lack of elite burst.”

In 2022, TheBoxandOne wrote of Doncic, “Critiques about Doncic’s game came down to the lack of elite athleticism.”

The NBA features the best athletes in the world, and Luka Doncic is one of the top three players in the NBA. You do the math.

One of the reasons Doncic routinely abuses the best athletes in the world is because he’s a great athlete.

“I think he is. I mean, he’s out there with us,” Mavericks guard P.J. Washington said this week.

Doncic isn’t just “out there with us,” but he’s usually the best one.

“He’s held his own. He’s doing what he’s doing,” Washington said. “It’s not about who can jump the highest, or run the fastest.

It’s about putting the ball in the basket, and he does that at a very high level.”

The highest level. In part because he has an array of God-given skills that make most creatures on this earth envious.

According to our good friends at Webster’s, athleticism is defined as “the combination of qualities (such as speed, strength, and agility) that are characteristic of an athlete.”

If we reduce the definition of a great athlete to running fast or jumping high, Luka will neither represent his native Slovenia in the 100-meter dash at this year’s Summer Olympics, nor will he compete in the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest.

When we broaden the scope of athleticism to its proper parameters, Luka might win gold in everything.

Watch his ability to start and stop, while dribbling a basketball.

Watch his ability to change directions, while dribbling a basketball.

Watch his ability to dribble a basketball, with either hand.

Watch his ability to shoot a basketball, with either hand.

Watch his ability to pivot off either foot.

Watch his ability to pass a basketball, in motion, with GPS-like accuracy to nearly anywhere on the floor, in traffic.

Watch, again, his game-winning 3-pointer in Game 2 of the NBA’s Western Conference when he put the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, in a blender, and hit “puree.”

Combine all of those athletic traits and put them in a frame that is 6-foot-7, 230 pounds and forget it. According to some Mavs folks, when it comes to the weight room Doncic is “elite.”

“He can hoop. He can hoop. He may not be able to windmill on you but he can hoop,” Dallas Mavs center Derrick Lively said of Doncic’s athleticism.

There is no way a man can be one of the best basketball players in the world, like Doncic, without being a great athlete.

The same can be said of Larry Bird just as easily as it could be said of Magic Johnson. Both men were labeled as less-than-great athletes because neither was an elite jumper or runner, but everything else was the top of the food chain.

When we discuss “great athletes” look beyond the fast/jump components. Those are parts, and not all, of the discussion.

If you just looked at the now late former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Larry Allen you would say, “A big guy who is blessed with the strength of 10,000 oxen.” And when you watched him play you knew you were watching a great athlete who happened to be a mountain of a human being.

Look at their feet. Look at their quickness. Look at their ability to complete multiple tasks at the same time, at a high rate of speed.

Luka Doncic is not the fastest, nor can he jump high, but in everything else he is elite.

As he says, “Not everything is jumping and running fast.”