Zach Lowe offered a critique of Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic earlier this week on his Lowe Post podcast.
“Luka has become one of the biggest whiners in the NBA," ESPN's basketball expert said. "It’s constant, every time he drives he is whining. He spent so much energy whining to the referees and slumping his shoulders to teammates, it sucked the life of the team many times.”
This seems like a fairly routine tweak. The Mavs have stumbled to a 9-14 record, second-worst in the Western Conference. Doncic has been predictably great and sports a PER north of 26. But that and a quarter can get you what it gets the rest of us: the ability to watch the playoffs from home. Transcendent players complaining to the refs with great regularity is a cornerstone of the player-first NBA.
Mark Cuban was asked about the comments during his appearance on VICE TV's Cari & Jemele Won't Stick to Sports yesterday and had a strong reaction.
Cuban explained that Doncic isn't a whiner, he's just passionate. And he has that European flair to him that, uh, maybe your college girlfriend found so alluring on her study abroad trip, dammit.
A fierce desire to win leads to lobbying for calls, which leads to accusations of whining. It's a replenishing cycle.
It does seem as though being called a whiner isn't all that biting of an insult in today's game, which has a very real reward system in place for those who fight for each and every call. Especially the elite talent, which benefits the most from the benefit of a friendly whistle.
Of course, if an overindulgence is causing Luka's teammates to tune out and give in, that's a net-negative. The important thing is that everyone involved here got a nice slice of above-average content.