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Reading the Instagram Leaves: Why Luka Doncic’s New Favorite Emoji Means He’s Going to Sacramento

The Kings have played it pretty close to the vest when it comes to who they’ll take at no. 2 in Thursday’s NBA draft, but new social media evidence may have tipped the team’s hand

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Though the Suns appear locked into taking Deandre Ayton no. 1 overall in the NBA draft, no one knows who the Kings will take at no. 2. Marvin Bagley III is the popular pick in mock drafts, but Sacramento has been flirting heavily with Michael Porter Jr. in recent days, too.

But if you head into the social media mines and dig deep for clues, the answer is obvious: The Kings will take Luka Doncic.

On Friday night, Aneel Ranadivé, the son of Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé, posted this image to his Instagram story:

That photo was likely taken on or around June 5, because the clothing everyone is wearing matches another photo — one without Doncic — that Aneel posted on that date (Aneel’s Instagram account was made private over the weekend). Friday’s post presented the previously unreported information that Kings brass had met with Doncic in Spain in early June. And that Aneel posted it just days before the draft is mysterious — why post a nearly two-week-old photo out of the blue? Is it possible that, as Vivek’s son, Aneel has some inside information he’s excited about?

OK, if this feels like a stretch, I don’t blame you. The Kings meeting with Doncic may not mean anything more than that an NBA front office is doing its due diligence on a top prospect, and Aneel’s Instagram timing could be nothing more than a coincidence.

But grab your shovel. It’s time to dig deeper.

In Friday’s photo with Doncic, Vivek is making the “shaka” sign — the “hang loose” symbol that is often associated with surf culture. He does this all the time in all sorts of photos — it’s kind of his thing. Since that photo surfaced, Doncic has suddenly started using the shaka emoji all over Instagram. He used it on Sunday, in the caption for his most recent Instagram photo:

1 more!!

A post shared by Luka Doncic (@lukadoncic) on

Doncic used the emoji again on Sunday when he commented on an Instagram post from Ayton:

Also on Sunday, Reddit user Gl8marlon caught a screenshot of Doncic using the emoji in his Instagram Story:

That’s three usages of the emoji in just one day. You might think that this is a coincidence, that Doncic just happens to like using the emoji that matches Vivek’s favorite hand sign, but Doncic has rarely used the shaka symbol in the past—he loves to use emoji on nearly everything he posts to Instagram, including the fire emoji, the muscle emoji, the raised hands emoji, and the basketball emoji. But before Sunday he virtually never used the shaka emoji; the last time he did so in an Instagram caption was in July 2017, and the last time he used it on Twitter was in April 2017.

After more than a year when he hardly used it at all, the timing of Doncic’s new affinity for the shaka emoji is curious — especially since it comes less than two weeks after sitting down with Vivek and only a couple of days after a photo of the two featuring the shaka hand sign went public.

If you’re still not convinced, consider this: The shaka sign involves a hand holding up two digits — a finger and a thumb. The Kings have the no. 2 pick. Doncic to Sacramento confirmed.