Behind the meme: Inside the lead-up to Luka Doncic's hilarious smile at Devin Booker

Behind the meme: Inside the lead-up to Luka Doncic's hilarious smile at Devin Booker
Video luka dončić devin booker

The NBA’s next great individual rivalry is here and it’s between two of the league’s brightest young stars — Devin Booker and Luka Doncic.

The rivalry was renewed tonight when Booker’s Suns visited Doncic’s Mavericks at the American Airlines Center, their third matchup of the 2022-23 regular season. The meeting, of course, is a rematch of the seven-game battle in the 2022 Western Conference Semifinals that ended with Doncic and company literally getting the last laugh.

After the two teams went back and forth in Games 1 through 6, Doncic and the Mavs embarrassed Phoenix on its home floor in Game 7, providing us all with a lasting image that has been a go-to meme on Twitter, Instagram and in group messages everywhere.

👀 pic.twitter.com/jJK3zp684T

A simple internet search for “last laugh quote” often yields the result of a line that reads “he who laughs last, laughs best.” It’s a wonder that the quote itself has yet to be overlayed over the picture as Booker looks willing to do anything but give his opponent the satisfaction of acknowledgment.

Like any good meme, this image comes with a backstory, adding to the gravity of this specific moment and the rivalry as a whole. Let’s peel back the curtain a bit and go behind the meme.

Behind the meme: Luka Doncic smiling at Devin Booker

To really go behind the meme, it’s worth beginning with the 2018 NBA Draft. The Suns owned the No. 1 overall pick and passed up on Doncic to select Deandre Ayton. To be fair, the Kings, who owned the No. 2 pick, also passed up on Doncic, but it’s something about being passed up for No. 1 that adds to the history here, especially considering the fact that Phoenix could have paired Booker with Doncic.

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Fast forward four years to 2022 and Doncic and Booker are both All-NBA First Teamers meeting with a trip to the Western Conference Finals on the line.

The back-and-forth that I mentioned to start the series? The Suns took Games 1 and 2 before the Mavericks responded with wins in Games 3 and 4. Then came Game 5, a 30-point Suns blowout in which Booker made light of Doncic’s propensity for theatrics.

With the Mavericks facing elimination following the big loss, Doncic took a page out of Michael Jordan’s book as he left the court, as he was heard saying “everybody acting tough when they up,” as he left the court in Phoenix. Was it a direct reference to Booker? You decide.

“Everybody acts tough when they’re up” – Luka as the Mavericks leave the court after a 110-80 Suns win pic.twitter.com/uCh4DrSFtf

Facing elimination at home, the Mavericks cruised to a 27-point victory in Game 6 to set up a decisive Game 7 in Phoenix. With all that had transpired leading up to the moment, there wasn’t necessarily bad blood, just a bit of a rivalry that made way for pettiness.

In many ways, Game 7 was the epitome of petty. Doncic came out firing and his first-half total of 27 points matched that of the Suns, who faced a 57-27 deficit going into the halftime break. After all that had happened in the series, Doncic was definitely aware of it, too.

Reporter: “Were you were aware at halftime you had as many points as the Suns?”Luka Doncic: “Oh yea, of course”😂😂😂😂😂#MFFL pic.twitter.com/qY7A1sHPRk

It’s unclear when the moment in Game 7 actually occurred, but the TNT graphic perfectly encapsulates everything as it’s overlayed with the halftime score.

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Doncic got the last laugh in 2022, but the rivalry continues. We’ll see if Booker and the Suns can return the favor on the court … and in meme form.

Rivalry reignited in Dallas

On March. 5, 2023, Booker and Doncic got into it again in the Suns’ 130-126 road win as things got heated between the pair, giving us another classic faceoff meme.

Luka Doncic and Devin Booker do not like each other 🍿🔥 pic.twitter.com/tZ08koxONr

After Doncic missed a potential game-tying layup with just 3.1 seconds remaining, the two squared off and had to be separated by teammates.

Booker and Doncic smiled and laughed throughout the exchange, as they were both assessed technical fouls, with Booker downplaying the interaction postgame.

Luka Doncic and Devin Booker going at it 👀pic.twitter.com/v0UKUZSHwg

“You guys say you don’t want everybody to be friendly-friendly,” Booker said, via AZCentral’s Duane Rankin.

“There you go, we got some smoke…It’s just two competitors going at it,” he said. “Everybody speaks on how friendly the NBA is right now and don’t like that. I have no problem with Luka on or off the court, but when we’re competing, we’re competing.”

“You guys say you don’t want everybody to be friendly friendly. There you go. We got some smoke.”Devin Booker on his exchange with Luka Doncic late in #Suns win over #Mavs pic.twitter.com/jI0ygEr27C

With the Mavericks and Suns both in the fight for the Western Conference crown this season, with the additions of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant respectively, another seven-game series between these teams is exactly what fans want to see.

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