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Luka Dončić is Mavs' best franchise player, belongs in convo with MJ, Jason Kidd says

Move over Dirk Nowitzki. There's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Luka Dončić. On Tuesday, Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said that the Mavs' four-time, All-NBA guard has moved ahead of Nowitzki as the franchise's best player.

Nowitzki spent his entire 21-year career playing for Dallas — and is the only NBA player to play for a single team for that long. The Germany native was the first European player to start an NBA All-Star game and the first to take home the NBA's Most Valuable Player award (2007).

Nowitzki, a 14-time All-Star and 12-time All-NBA selection, helped the Mavericks win their first and only NBA championship in 2011, when they defeated the heavily favored and LeBron James-led Miami Heat. Nowitzki earned NBA Finals MVP for his Herculean efforts in that series.

Dallas made the playoffs in all but six of the seasons that the power forward played for the franchise.

Oh, and he was just inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last year as a first-ballot nominee.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates his shot against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, in Atlanta. Doncic had 73 points on the night. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić received extreme praise from his head coach during a Tuesday radio hit. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Even so, Kidd — Nowitzki's former teammate — gave the Mavs' current star the nod over the franchise legend. Then he took it a step further by saying that Dončić deserves to be in even more illustrious company.

"He's better than Dirk," Kidd said on 97.1 The Freak's "The Downbeat." "He's in the atmosphere of [Michael Jordan,] the best to ever do it, LeBron [James], Kobe [Bryant]. And so, just to appreciate what this young man's doing at the age of 24, [it] is something that Dallas has never seen. I've said this internally: He is better than Dirk. He does things that Dirk could never do, and now is the opportunity of getting the right people around him to ultimately win a championship."

The compliment isn't coming out of nowhere for Kidd, a 2021 Hall of Fame inductee.

Dončić went on an unprecedented tear last weekend, with a 73-point effort Friday in Dallas' win over the Atlanta Hawks, a 17-assist game Saturday in a loss to the Sacramento Kings and then a 45-point, 15-assist performance Monday in the Mavs' 131-129 win over the Orlando Magic.

The 73-point game marked the second-highest-scoring performance the league has seen since Kobe Bryant's 81-point game.

"I'm tired," Dončić said afterward, via ESPN. "I can't wait to go to sleep, honestly."

The 24-year-old is averaging 34.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.6 assists, and regarding Kidd's comparison to Jordan, Dončić's playoff average of 32.5 points is second only to the six-time NBA champion's 33.4 points.

But that's where the comparison stops.

Dončić's teams have not had nearly the same level of success as Nowitzki's or Jordan's teams. The Mavericks missed the playoffs last season and during Dončić's rookie season in 2018-19.

And while Dallas did make three consecutive appearances in the postseason from 2020 to 2022, the Mavs have made it past the first round only once during Dončić's tenure. That 2022 playoff run did, however, conclude with the Mavericks playing in the Western Conference finals.

But in Kidd's mind, he has seen more than enough to believe that Dončić is in the early stages of putting together a similarly legendary career.

"This young man is 24 and is breaking all the records that stand in front of him," he said. "He's a winner, and his ultimate goal is to win a championship. And he will get there and not just win one, but he will win multiple when it's all said and done."