If only Team USA basketball players had as much national pride as their Slovenian counterparts.
In Slovenia, children spend their whole lives dreaming of one day representing their country at the Olympics.
At least, that is the case according to NBA phenom Luka Doncic.
Earlier in July, after leading the Slovenian team to win their Olympic qualifier, Doncic was awarded tournament MVP. But Doncic said the award meant nothing compared to the chance to represent his country on the world stage.
“I don’t care about the MVP. We’re going to the Olympics. Every kid in Slovenia dreams of being in the Olympics, I did too. We deserve to be here. We [as a team] are making history. Not me,” Doncic said, according to Eurohoops.
Despite his international origins, Doncic has quickly become one of the biggest stars in basketball stateside. The 22-year-old just finished his third season playing for the Dallas Mavericks and has already undeniably proven himself to be one of the top 10 players in the league.
Although NBA titles, MVP awards and other accolades likely await him in the not too distant future, Doncic’s desire to represent his country greatly outweighs his desire for personal success.
When asked which would mean more to him — an NBA championship or a gold medal with Slovenia — the Mavericks star made it clear where his priorities are.
Luka Doncic was asked what would mean more to him: A gold medal with Slovenia or NBA championship.
“I’d say gold medal with Slovenia. You play for your country and that’s something… but I wouldn’t mind both.” pic.twitter.com/zgDxGA3dYI
— Antonis Stroggylakis (@AStroggylakis) July 3, 2021
“I would say gold medal with Slovenia,” he said. “You play for your country and that’s something … but I wouldn’t mind both.”
In Slovenia’s Olympic debut against Argentia — a country that consistently ranks near the top in basketball — Doncic was unstoppable.
In the first five minutes of the game, Doncic scored 15 points, according to The Guardian. By games end, he netted a staggering 48 points as he lead his team to victory.
It’s clear that Doncic and his Slovenian teammates love their country. They’re giving it their all to win a medal for the Slovenian people.
If only U.S. players cared about their country even half as much.
Despite having by far the most talented roster in the world, Team USA has greatly underperformed.
The basketball team lost its opening match against France after losing five of its previous eight games, including exhibitions and the 2019 FIBA World Cup, according to USA Today.
Wednesday saw the team finally achieve its first victory against Iran, a team with only two notable players — Hamed Haddadi, a 36-year-old former NBA player and Arsalan Kazemi, a former college basketball star at Oregon who never made it into the NBA.
Given that the U.S. roster is packed full of NBA stars — Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker and Zach LaVine, among others — the team’s lack of success has many sports pundits dumbfounded, especially when compared to Slovenia.
How can Slovenia, with a population of 2 million, be outperforming America, with a population of 330 million?
The answer appears quite simple — Slovenian players actually appear proud of their heritage, while American players are anything but.
In the 2019-2020 NBA season, following the death of George Floyd, virtually every NBA player decided to fully embrace the controversial anti-American Black Lives Matter movement.
Many American players chose to display leftist messages on their jerseys and refused to stand for the national anthem in protest of America’s supposed “systemic racism.”
Team USA’s head coach, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, isn’t too fond of the U.S. either.
A staunch supporter of left-wing “social justice,” in 2018, Popovich claimed “we live in a racist country,” according to Bleacher Report.
In 2017, when asked about athletes who choose to kneel for the U.S. anthem, Popovich said the “flag is irrelevant. It’s just a symbol that people glom onto for political reasons, just like (Dick) Cheney back in the Iraq war,” according to The Score.
It’s also no secret that most American-born NBA stars value NBA championships over Olympic gold medals.
After all, the ultimate personal glory in basketball can only be achieved by leading one’s team to an NBA championship.
Winning Olympic gold medals for America doesn’t come with quite the same level of adulation and worship.
It wasn’t always that way, though. There was a time when American stars understood the importance of representing the U.S.
One such player was the late Kobe Bryant.
“You’re not playing for a region or a state or a brand. You are playing for the United States of America.”
Unfortunately, it seems as though today’s NBA players have either forgotten or rejected Bryant’s words.
After all, why work hard to represent a “racist country”?
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