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  • Mamadou Tall

The Next Great Rivalry: Luka Doncic & Trae Young

The NBA is entering a new decade. As we see stars, rivalries, and dynasties start to fall, Luka Doncic and Trae Young will be ushering us into a new era. 

Luka Doncic and Trae Young have taken the league by storm. The young stars have established themselves in just a season and a couple of games. Besides the immense talent that they both have; Doncic and Young are the next big rivalry.

Both drafted in the 2018 draft, the paths of their careers are forever intertwined. Doncic was drafted with the third pick by the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks proceeded to trade him to the Dallas Mavericks for the fifth pick, Trae Young. That draft night trade between the two teams has now set the precedent for the rest of their careers. 

Was it a good trade? 

Who won the trade?

All questions ultimately lead up to everyone asking who’s better. Are you taking Doncic or Young? 

While neither of them was the first pick of the draft they are both unarguably the top two players of their draft class. So much so that Doncic won the Rookie of the Year award as Young fell short after coming in second place. Similarly to any great rivalry, the two of them have traveled completely different paths to get to this point. 

Doncic’s hoops journey started in Europe, more specifically Ljubljana, Slovenia. The son of a former player turned coach in Slovenia and model, Doncic was a prodigy dominating his peers at Real Madrid’s youth academy. From there he started playing for Real Madrid’s professional team at the age of 16. He ended his time there winning the Euroleague and then becoming the youngest MVP in Euroleague history at the age of 19. After taking Europe by storm he has brought his talents to the NBA, where he hasn’t missed a step. Now age 20, Doncic has placed himself among the elite players of the league.

Luka Doncic made a name for himself as a teen playing for Real Madrid (Original Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated).

Across the Atlantic was Trae Young’s journey in the United States. Also the son of a former pro player, Young honed his skills through the high school and AAU ranks. As the 4th ranked point guard in the nation, Young went on to dominate his competition on the college level during his lone season as an Oklahoma Sooner. Contrary to Doncic’s start in the NBA, Young’s first half of the season saw him struggle to adjust to the pro game. Since those struggles, he has been on the up and up. Drawing comparisons to two time MVP, Steve Nash, for his passing ability. His passing paired with his shooting from beyond the arc has made him one of the league's most dynamic and game-changing young players. 

(Original Photo Credit: Peach Tree Hoops)

The two of them have come into their sophomore season putting up insane numbers. In 17 games Doncic is averaging 30.1 points, 10 rebounds, and 9.5 assists while recording five triple-doubles. On the other hand, Young has managed to average 26.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 8.7 assists in 17 games so far. 

The 2019-2020 season has produced numerous storylines that are to be played out. Lakers versus the Clippers. The era of dynamic duos. Even the return of Carmelo Anthony has developed into an interesting story to follow. All these stories are interesting but none will be able to outlast the rivalry that is Luca Doncic and Trae Young. Rivalries will always withstand the test of time, it's proven. Look at the famous Magic Johnson and Larry Bird rivalry of the 80s. Similarly to Doncic and Young, they were also drafted in the same draft, they were and still are compared to each other.

The Doncic and Young rivalry may not match what Magic and Bird had, but it will become this era’s next big rivalry. The seeds of the rivalry have been planted with the trade on draft night and their battle for Rookie of the Year. Recently, Young gave life to the notion of there being a rivalry on ESPN’s First Take, letting it be known that he keeps an eye on Doncic.

With many of the league’s top players nearing the end of their careers, we are left to ponder what the next era will bring. Seeing young players such as Doncic and Young (20 and 21 respectively) dominate gives fans something to look forward to. 

None of us are clairvoyant. No one knows what the future of the NBA will hold, but Doncic and Young will be a huge part of it. 

Imagine eight years from now seeing the intro of the 2028 NBA finals on tv and seeing Doncic’s face on one side and Young’s face on another. Whether you see it or not you can’t lie it seems feasible.

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