If Luka Doncic was unaware that Cleveland is home to the second-largest Slovenian population outside of Slovenia, fans at Quicken Loans Arena reminded him quickly on Saturday night.
Hundreds of flag-waving, Slovenia-repping fans filled the lower bowl at The Q on Saturday, cheering on Doncic, a Slovenia native who has become quite a star in his first NBA season.
The 19-year old took time after his pre-game routine to greet those fans, taking selfies and signing autographs. Though a small percentage of the nearly 56,000 Slovenians living in Cleveland were in attendance, they made their presence known.
Doncic was as thankful for those fans as they were for him, as he mentioned after a dominant 35-point, 11-rebound performance in Dallas’ 111-98 win.
“I appreciated that,” Doncic said. “I expected some (fans), but they were great cheering for me. It felt amazing.”
One of said fans in attendance was former Slovenian prime minister Lojze Peterle, who said before the game he simply wanted to shake the young man’s hand.
Peterle was afforded that opportunity, along with many other fans in attendance for Doncic.
Mavericks star Luka Doncic comes through for ailing Otterbein wrestler Joey Tromba
Joey Tromba, a devout Cavaliers fan, had no trouble temporarily switching loyalties Feb. 2 when the Mavericks played the Cavs at Quicken Loans Arena.
Tromba’s favorite basketball player in the world for the past several years has been Luka Doncic, now a 19-year-old rookie with the Mavericks and one of the new shining stars of the NBA – not just for what Doncic does on the court, but for the humility, compassion and grace he displays off it.
What Doncic did for Tromba on the Mavericks’ only visit to The Q in 2018-19 is a perfect example of that humility and compassion.
#Mavericks humble star Luka Doncic was happy to make time for Joey Tromba. pic.twitter.com/KVzH3ryZIY— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) February 3, 2019
Tromba’s family roots are in Doncic’s home country of Slovenia.
Tromba’s sister, Sophia, reached out to Doncic on Twitter last month and Doncic responded quickly, promising to meet Joey when the Mavs were in town.
“It’s a shame what happened to him,” Doncic said after the game. “I just want to be there and help as many people as I can with my presence. Obviously, I can’t help everybody. But I helped somebody, and I hope it makes him happy.”
Doncic not only made good on his promise – the Mavericks provided the Tromba family with eight tickets for the Feb. 2 game and then afterward he met with the family privately – he turned in a performance worthy of a scene from a Babe Ruth movie in which Ruth tells a hospitalized younger: “I’m gonna hit a home run today, kid, and when I do it will be for you.”
Doncic had 28 points in the first half and finished with 35 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes to lead the Mavericks to just their sixth road victory of the season, 111-98 over the Cavaliers.
“I saw him when he was growing up overseas, and I like how he played,” Joey said before the game. “We both have that Slovenian connection, so that’s nice. I saw when he was Real Madrid in Spain he won the Final Four MVP.”
Joey was in a hospital bed in Cleveland Clinic when Doncic responded to Sophia’s tweet with the message: “for sure!!! You can count on it!!! #Trombastrong”
Talk about instant medicine.
“It was incredible,” Joey said. “I was not expecting it at all. I saw he responded to my sister’s tweet and it was exciting – really exciting.”
Joey’s father, Joe Tromba, was in the hospital room when Joey got the first direct message from Doncic on Jan. 17. He was as thrilled as his son.
“What it first told me is Mrs. Doncic did an amazing job raising her son, for him to be so popular and so humble,” said the senior Tromba from his seat inside The Q. “I was on the phone with my daughter when she said, ‘Luka just responded to me!’ and I was in the hospital when Luka and Joey were DMing back and forth on Twitter. Seeing the smile on his face was amazing, and it shows you just how small the world really is. To have somebody like that reach out is unbelievable.”
Joe Tromba said his wife, Julie, speaks and writes fluent Slovenian. She and Mrs. Doncic have been texting back and forth. More than two million people live in Slovenia. Making this story even more remarkable is Mrs. Tromba and Mrs. Doncic have a mutual friend in Slovenia. Julie Tromba has made several trips to the Central European country and is planning another visit in the fall.
“She said when she goes she wants to get together with Mrs. Doncic and their friend and grab a beer together,” Joe Tromba said. “They have an open invitation, if they want to visit Cleveland, they can come stay with us and we’ll show them the town.”
Joey said he is “a little low on energy.” He said he will be going once a week for the next six months to Cleveland Clinic for outpatient cancer treatment. His goal is to return to Otterbein for the fall semester to continue pursuing his engineering degree.
Source: news-herald.com & Cleveland.com
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