Halleluka: Doncic, Kopitar bond over Slovenian roots at LA Kings game

Slovenians stick together.

While that may not be an official motto, LA Kings Anze Kopitar and Dallas Mavericks Luka Dončić certainly displayed it Thursday.

After LA’s 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars, Kopitar connected with Dončić to exchange jerseys in their first face-to-face, in-person meeting. Dončić was there to support his neighboring professional team, but took time afterward to meet up with his fellow countryman and swap personalized jerseys.

“Right now he’s probably the biggest athlete in the country, for sure,” Kopitar said.

Kopitar represented his country starting in 2003 as a junior all the way until he led Slovenia to the quarterfinals at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics; Dončić has not had a chance to participate in the Olympics yet, but did guide Slovenia to a undefeated, gold medal campaign at the EuroBasket 2017 tournament.

On Friday, Kopitar reflected on the meeting to LA Kings insider Jon Rosen:

“With Luka, that’s the first time we’ve met in person. I’ve talked to him over the phone a little bit, but first time in person. Yeah, we do keep tabs on each other and cheer each other on. It’s kind of funny, because for a small country like we are, we have a lot of professional athletes that play in the highest levels. You name it – you’ve got soccer, basketball, there’s myself, ski jumpers are good, skiers are good. It’s pretty fascinating how well we’re represented. And it’s not just one sport. You name it – the versatility of sport, it’s pretty amazing.”

According to most recent surveys, Slovenia has a population of less than 2.1 million.

Dončić is currently the front-runner for the NBA Rookie of the Year award despite a less-than-optimal season for the Mavericks while Kopitar leads the LA Kings in points.