How Luka Doncic transformed the press in Slovenia

 » Let’s not give it back! », requires the Ekipa. For its September 1 edition, the main Slovenian sports daily unsurprisingly made its front page with Luka Doncic and Goran Dragic. The 36-year-old leader lifting in his hands the European trophy won in 2017, which the Slovenian nation, favorite of this Euro 2022 for the media, intends to repatriate.

The small country of two million inhabitants is once again preparing to live to the rhythm of the exploits of its national team, an unfortunate semi-finalist at the Tokyo Olympics. Five years ago, Luka Doncic was 18 and not yet a single NBA game in his legs. Today, he is one of the main figures of this European competition and of the entire basketball planet.

Its rise in sporting power has coincided with media coverage that has become extraordinary year after year. It seems a long time ago when Real Madrid « protected » its young nugget from journalists until it came of age.  » Once he turned 18, they organized a ‘media day’ for the Slovenian media. We have seen that the number of clicks is important », recalls Aljaz Vrabec, journalist for the daily Delo (equivalent to Le Monde in Slovenia), joined by USA Basketball.

And that was still nothing compared to what was to follow.  » Slovenian sports media entered the era of modern sports journalism with Luka, we might never have entered it without him “, formally assures Andrej Miljkovic. The journalist at Ekipa still has Spurs’ 2005 NBA title in mind, with his compatriots Rasho Nesterovic and Beno Udrih in their ranks. But social networks hardly existed at the time.

A team follows him 24 hours a day!

In 2018, the Doncic phenomenon leaves Spain to reach the United States and its big league. Who says crossing the Atlantic, says change of time zone – Slovenia being in the same zone as that of France – and reorganization within the editorial staff.

Its matches are almost no longer accessible in Europe except at night. We now have to feed a very early-morning readership.  » We saw that people weren’t ready to get up at 2:30 or 3 a.m. to watch live, because many people start work at 6:30 or 7 a.m. But they were for getting up at 5 or 6 a.m. and spending half an hour watching the highlights and reading the freshest reactions. “, reports Andrej Miljkovic.

The latter adds: It was absolutely perfect to have such a phenomenon for our site. We were able to generate incredible traffic at crazy times. Luka’s first two NBA seasons in particular have been phenomenal in terms of audience.

So much so that the specialist still leads a specialized team of several people responsible for scrutinizing the news of the player and the Mavs… almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! Purpose of the operation: to produce as much content as possible.  » The match recap is not that important. These are the reactions, little things, very short information. To be very frank, it’s a lot of clickbait but it works. This is not very high quality journalism “, concedes Andrej Miljkovic.

Available for Slovenian media

But the public want more because he only seems to have eyes for Luka.  » People click when you put Luka in the title “Simply observes Aljaz Vrabec. Cycling stars Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic also have significant reach online, but nothing to compare. «  When Pogacar wins the Tour de France, he may reach 70 or 80% of the best of what Luka reaches in audience “, Assesses Andrej Miljkovic of Ekipa, whose numbers have climbed further with the Mavs’ long run in the 2022 playoffs, boosted by sequences of “trashtalking” between Doncic and Devin Booker.

Same enthusiasm on television.  » Comparing viewership overnight, Dallas games are about 70% more watched than the average game viewership “, assesses Tilen Lamut, NBA commentator on the Slovenian channel Arena Sport.

Ekipa has no one on site but regularly sends journalists to Dallas, on the order of two to three trips of several weeks per season. Every time Andrej Miljkovic goes there, his compatriot is available even if the Mavs game master, more comfortable playing than talking, is not a fan of long interviews.

 » He was allowed to speak in Slovenian, in the locker room before the Covid, It was easy to joke with him, to make videos… We could do everything we wanted with him, he’s great. Now press conferences are the only way to speak with him, even while on location. He answers two or three questions in Slovenian, the rest in English “, details the journalist.

Criticize it? It’s forbidden  » !

The latter, like his counterparts interviewed, does not hide the fact that it is sometimes difficult to write negative things on the star of an entire nation.  » It is not easy to be objective with a national hero but it is our role to remain so and to say what we see. If he loses six balls in a game, we can’t ignore it. If he defends badly, you have to end up saying something. And I think that’s right, ’cause even he knows “Judge Tilen Lamut.

But beware of potential backlash…” We are in a situation where criticism is not allowed because the public would murder you as a journalist or media, like ‘Leave him alone!’ “, notes Andrej Miljkovic, before taking the eloquent example of the last action of the France-Slovenia semi-final during the last Olympics.

 » We all noted that he should have taken the last shot, he had Rudy Gobert on him, he should have played him. “Instead, Luka Doncic preferred to serve his teammate Klemen Prepelic who, leaving in penetration, ran into the wall Nicolas Batum for a counter that will be remembered.  » People in Slovenia said, ‘Wow, he gave away a great ball’. This was not the case. But after everything he’s done, in competition, in the NBA… You can’t stop there and say that it’s Luka’s fault if we didn’t beat France to go to final. »

Aljaz Vrabec has another example in mind: the move, in 2019, of Primoz Roglic to Monte-Carlo, known to be an advantageous tax land. The case had made noise in the country.  » The public was angry with the journalists: ‘You are jealous of him, leave him alone. He can do whatever he wants, it’s his money!’ Implied, the public would have reacted the same way in a similar situation with the basketball player.  » With Luka, people would be pissed off if he said he doesn’t want to play with the national team for example. »

Which is not the case since he has shown loyalty to the Slovenian jersey for years. And the individual and collective performances do not stop.  » You also get used to being criticized for having criticized it. Fortunately, he doesn’t give us many opportunities to do so and I hope it stays that way! “Wishes Tilen Lamut to finish.

In Ljubljana.

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