Rony Seikaly (II): “Luka Doncic is the best white player ever – LeBron more like Magic than Jordan”

Rony Seikaly is confident that Luka Doncic can become an NBA all-time great. "He's a more modern version of Larry Bird", he said in the second part of his interview with TalkBasket.net

Photo Source: Sports Illustrated

Apart from his connection to basketball and music, Rony Seikaly talked about some trending topics in the NBA in his interview with TalkBasket.net

The GOAT debate, the Luka Doncic phenomenon, Europeans in the NBA and post players becoming extinct were some of the major themes of discussion.

In particular, it is interesting that the words of Kobe Bryant: “LeBron is more like a Magic Johnson” seem to resonate with Seikaly’s thoughts on the basketball identity of the 36-year-old superstar. Singing praises of Luka Doncic, on the occasion of his beyond-any-imagination NBA season, has become common practice over the last months. However, no one has gone so far as to call the Slovenian wonderkid an enhanced version of Larry Bird. Seikaly, having been a teammate of an early Pau Gasol at Barcelona, holds no reservations when it comes to the prospects of the Dallas Mavericks’ guard.

Moreover, the retired player refers to some of his best and worst experiences he got to taste as an athlete. The final game of the NCAA tournament in 1987, when Syracuse lost by one point (74-73) to Indiana in New Orleans, falls into both categories. Despite the fact that he did not get to play for a championship contender, Seikaly still wishes he could have relished the chance to be on a high-aspiring team, like the Chicago Bulls or the Utah Jazz.

Overall, for a guy who first touched a basketball in 9th grade and had never heard of a screen before he arrived at Syracuse, his trajectory definitely surpassed all expectations. Not winning a title or even an All-Star nod can be a bothersome mishap for an NBA veteran, who was the starting center in several teams and had to deal with the Hakeems, the Ewings, the Robinsons and the Shaqs that dominated the paint. But Rony had such a good time in Miami – where he stayed for almost half of his pro career- that no complaint can be uttered in this respect.

Q: Which was your best moment as a player and a DJ? Which one(s) would you call a nightmare?

A: Some of the best years of my life were the ones I spent in Greece as a young kid. Takis Koroneos got me to play in Panathinaikos. I haven’t seen him in the last 3-4 years, but he’s always in my thoughts. He’s the man who brought me to where I am. For me, practising with the team at such a young age and getting that experience set me up for my college and NBA years. Those years were amazing. Then, we got to the final game with Syracuse. Although the taste was bittersweet because we lost at the last-second shot, the journey to get there was one of the most amazing times of my life.

In the NBA, my years in Miami were amazing, watching the franchise grow, going to the play-offs against Michael Jordan and the Bulls. My worst years was when I was at the Golden State Warriors and everyone was injured. It was a waste of two years of my career because of all the injuries. The lowpoint of my basketball career was when I broke my foot during the Orlando Magic-Miami Heat game. I thought I was going to play another 6-8 years in the NBA and that was a career-ending injury.

Q: Is there really a GOAT debate for you or does Michael Jordan win all competition by default?

A: The GOAT debate is something that people have fun with, but when you’re comparing two great players of two different eras, it’s very difficult to make a call. We’re talking about two immensely talented players and we can go back and forth on who’s better, depending on whether you’re a fan of the 90s or of today. If you’re the latter, you probably don’t know what Michael Jordan did in the 90s and you would automatically think that LeBron James is the best player. If you grew up watching Kobe Bryant, you’d think that he’s the GOAT.

The debate is endless, but the only reason I’d give the nod to Michael Jordan is because he had more of an assassin mentality. If he smelled a little bit of blood, he would come after you and you were finished. It’s always the same with Mike Tyson. He was like a shark. LeBron is an extremely talented player, just as talented as Michael, but sometimes he’s more of a Magic Johnson when he has the ball; more of a facilitator and less of a finisher, like Michael Jordan was.

Michael Jordan tries to score against Rony Seikaly during a Miami Heat – Chicago Bulls game in 1990.

Q: Were you ever close to being traded from Miami to the Chicago Bulls?

A: Yes. It was just when Phil Jackson took over (1989). Had I gone to Chicago, I’d have six championships just by being on the same team with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. I had a great time in Miami and I don’t regret it at all, but looking back I wish I could have been on a championship team.

Q: In February 1998, your trade from Orlando to Utah seemed to be sealed. What happened next? Back then, you said Utah called the deal off because of your foot injury, they said you backed down.

A: I had broken my foot and I knew the damage that I did on myself. I knew that I couldn’t give them what they were looking for and therefore I told them I had lost almost half a second in timing. That’s a lot. I wasn’t physically able to help them. Otherwise, I would have gone there. But I didn’t want to cheat them. It was my decision.

Q: Apart from the lifestyle, what else attracted you to Miami?

A: The fact that it was a new franchise, the weather, everything that had to do with Miami. Sometimes, you go to a city and everything feels amazing. I had a connection with the city and I wanted to be there. It reminded me of being in Athens, next to the water. I love living near the sea.

Rony Seikaly with the Orlando Magic. Photo Source: exnba.com

Q: Which NBA or overseas player reminds you of yourself?

A: (sighs) I have no idea, honestly. No one plays with their back to the basket anymore. I played in an era when big men played like that and you got double-teamed. Now, it’s all pick’n’roll, face the basket and jumpshots. The only big that plays with his back to the basket is DeMarcus Cousins – and Joel Embiid a little bit. My forte was to eat up the guys inside, not to settle for jumpshots. I wanted to either get a foul or score a basket. For me, jumpshots are for guards. Hopefully, the game will go back to people dominating in the inside and passing it out for a wide-open three instead of big men shooting.

Q: Do you see Luka Doncic as the player capable of changing the narrative on Europeans in the NBA?

A: Luka Doncic is one in a million. I think that he’s the best white player to ever play the game, regardless of being European. Period. He’s Larry Bird 2.0. To me, LeBron James is Magic Johnson 2.0 and Luka Doncic is a more modern version of the way Larry Bird played. I’m talking about him as a basketball player and a pure talent, not in terms of wins and championships. Now, in order to be the best player, you’ll have to back it up with multiple championships, like Larry Bird has. To get into the conversation with him, you’d better have 4-5 championships under your belt. That would staple him as the best player in the world. I think Luka is a combination of Bird and Pete Maravich.

Q: Is his story really an example of how great overseas talent can be underestimated or overlooked by GMs, TV commentators, experts, scouters etc?

A: This is understandable because of all the European players that have been superstars in their leagues, but not as effective in the NBA. Pau Gasol was effective both in Europe and the NBA, but he isn’t mentioned in the same category as Larry Bird, as one of the best basketball players in the world. Even when I heard about Luka Doncic playing for Real Madrid, my first thought was: “He’s playing in Europe”. When he won the Euroleague with Madrid, I was like: “Wow, this kid is really good! I wonder what he will do in the NBA”.

Then, he came in and started playing exactly like he was playing in Europe- and even better. The game comes very easy to him. Regardless of who’s guarding him, he’s going to set himself up. I believe that if Luka wanted to score 30 points on average in Euroleague, he would do it. In Europe, it’s a different brand of basketball. You have to make 2-3 passes to get an open shot, whereas in the NBA you can go one-on-one a lot more.

Q: Who was the best European player of your time in the NBA?

A: I think (Drazen) Petrovic. But he was a one-dimensional player, an incredible scorer who could shoot the hell out of the ball. On the other hand, Luka is an all-around player who has made multiple triple-doubles in the NBA. It’s insane!

In the final segment of the interview, Rony Seikaly looks back on his international career with FC Barcelona, the US and Lebanese NTs, but not (alas!) with his favorite teams: Panathinaikos BC and the Greek NT.

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