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1-on-1 with Mirjam Poterbin: The mother of Dallas Mavericks phenom and NBA All-Star Luka Doncic

In her first American TV interview, Luka's mother talks with WFAA's Jonah Javad about motherhood, the journey from Slovenia to Dallas and his future with the Mavs.
Credit: Brandon Mowry (WFAA)
Luka Doncic pictured with his mother, Mirjam, and his grandmother, Milena.

DALLAS — Twenty minutes until the 2020 NBA All-Star Game tip-off in Chicago, Mirjam Poterbin weaved through the bustling concourse level, as NBA fans and pop culture celebrities passed by. 

She cut into a souvenir store at the United Center. 

Her mother, Milena, was there to assist as Mirjam jumped from rack to rack, looking to score a specific jersey.

A jersey of her son, not for her son.

Mirjam is the mother of Dallas Mavericks 20-year-old wunderkind Luka Doncic.

"I want him to be happy and I know the basketball is tied to his happiness," Mirjam explained. 

Mirjam headed to her seat in time to see Luka introduced as a starter in the NBA All-Star Game with the likes of NBA scoring leader James Harden, reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Luka's childhood idol LeBron James.

RELATED: Recap: Luka Doncic, Team LeBron win 2020 NBA All-Star game by 2 points

Luka's childhood -- her only child -- is something Mirjam remembers vividly.

"He was naughty sometimes," Mirjam laughed, before clarifying. "Not naughty. He was just so energized. He didn't sit for a minute."

Baby photos were spread out on a coffee table in front of Mirjam.

What place does her mind go when she looks at them?

"To his smile," she said. "He's the same now."

Basketball has delighted the Mavs phenom since he was a little boy in Slovenia.

"I just saw him happy," she recalled. "He was so happy."

From time to time, Mirjam would have to momentarily threaten to take away basketball in order for Luka to do his chores.

"I said, 'If you clean your room, you can go to the practice.' I knew he would always do it for sure," Mirjam admitted.

Luka's childhood was not void of adversity.

His mother and father, Sasa, divorced when he was young.

What helped get him through it?

"Maybe basketball because it was hard for him of course like for every kid," Mirjam said. "I tried to make it as easy as possible, but it's hard. So, maybe this is also the reason he's so good at basketball. One of them. Made him grow up a bit more."

Luka's talent was undeniable from an early age.

When he was 13, he left Slovenia to play for Real Madrid's youth academy in Spain. He was promoted to the senior team at age 15 -- the youngest ever in the club's history.

"In the beginning, honestly, I said, 'Luka, you're really good. You have time. You can go later.' And he looked at me and he said, 'Mom. I want to try.'"

Luka was on his own in Spain for three years, before Mirjam joined him.

"It was crazy hard," Mirjam admitted. "I cannot explain how hard this was. I was crying. I was there every weekend, but I was crying. It was really, really hard."

Luka euro-stepped from Slovenia to Spain to super-stardom in America.

"I never thought, 'Oh my God, he could play in the NBA,'" Mirjam admitted. "I didn't even know.'"

In June 2018, the Atlanta Hawks selected Luka with the third pick in the NBA Draft before trading him to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young and the Mavs' 2019 1st Round Pick.

"We are really close, so he wants to have family here," Mirjam said, who moved to Dallas with Luka.

What has been the toughest adjustment?

"Maybe, for me, because I didn't have friends," Mirjam admitted. "When I came there, I was alone. I was living alone because I didn't live with Luka."

In time, she did make friends and she believes Dallas could be her and Luka's first, last and only stop in the NBA.

"I'm honestly pretty sure it's going to be long-term," Mirjam said.

Does he just want to spend his career with one team?

"Yeah," Mirjam affirmed. "Yeah, he feels great there, so he wants to stay for sure." 

So, what does Luka like to do besides play/watch basketball? 

"He likes to hang out with friends and play video games," she said. "He's a dog-lover. Even when he was a kid, he was a big dog lover."

Luka has two dogs, who live with him in Dallas.

Does Luka cook?

"He can do pasta. That's it," Mirjam laughed.

Favorite TV show? 

"'Friends is number one, definitely." 

Back in Slovenia, Luka's 87-year-old great-grandmother also watches TV.

"She hangs out with her friends, 'This is my great-grand son! This is my great-grandson,'" Mirjam joked. "They started to watch basketball because of him."

80 year olds in Slovenia?

"80 year olds in Slovenia."

Luka's entourage is his family. They go to games around the country, including Chicago for his first All-Star Game.

RELATED: Who was Luka's favorite celebrity sighting at the All-Star game?

Flanked by Luka's grandma, Milena, and his girlfriend, Anamaria, Miriam jumps from rack to rack looking to score a jersey of her son.

They were sold out. 

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