EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Luka votes Deandre: Is the Ayton-Doncic rivalry a bromance?

Aug 16, 2018, 5:01 PM
(AP photos)...
(AP photos)
(AP photos)

The NBA can create the narrative of rivalries between players all it wants. But it’s up to the players to forge those rivalries off the court.

Suns center Deandre Ayton, the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, was already buddies with No. 2 selection Marvin Bagley III after they briefly attended the same high school together in Phoenix. As much as Bagley has pumped his chest about believing he deserved to be the top pick and that he is a frontrunner to win NBA Rookie of the Year, there’s a clear mutual respect between them.

Ayton has also failed to fire aggressive shots at the player who most realistically threatened him as the top overall pick. Luka Doncic fell to No. 3 in the draft, was selected by Atlanta and then traded to Dallas the night of.

The league’s schedule makers tabbed two of the Suns’ three nationally televised games for 2018-19 to feature Ayton against Doncic, including the opener on Oct. 17, but the two aren’t feeding the hype train with fire. They are, however, building up their budding rivalry with an unlikely bromance between Slovenian wing and Bahamian big.

In an interview with ESPN’s Chris Forsberg this week, Doncic called Ayton his pick to win NBA Rookie of the Year.

He was the No. 1 pick. He’s tall, he’s strong, he can do so many things.

That was a unique position to take amid Doncic’s rookie counterparts. The other four players who made their ROY picks with Forsberg all either selected themselves to win the award or one of their college teammates. None of Bagley, Kevin Knox, Grayson Allen or Wendell Carter selected Ayton to take home the honor. Doncic went astray.

This isn’t the first evidence of a friendly rivalry budding between Ayton and Doncic.

Video of draft night revealed a clip of Ayton sneaking into a hotel room as Doncic, or “Wonder Boy,” as he’s known in Europe, struggled to get dressed — Ayton then ragged on Doncic’s tie-tying abilities. Lately, Ayton felt the need to tell Doncic that his 79 rating on NBA 2K19 was a slight.

“You deserve higher than that fam 💯,” he commented on Doncic’s Instagram post.

The players have given fans glimpses of their friendship on social media, with Doncic harassing Ayton over the Arizona product’s lack of Fortnite skills, and Ayton posting … whatever this video of the two is about.

No, this isn’t the same savage back-and-forth between Ayton and center Joel Embiid.

But it’s darn entertaining and feeds into the lens that so many fans will view their careers through. Ayton and Doncic will likely be compared and linked to one another as long as they are NBA players.

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