Less than a week after leading the Denver Nuggets to their first-ever championship, Nikola Jokic is already back in Serbia. And what is the first thing the superstar did upon arriving in his native country? He unsurprisingly delivered on his threat and went straight to watch his horses race.
That is just the way Nikola Jokic is. For him, basketball is just a job; a job he excels at.
Many fans and analysts had an issue with the center’s attitude and statements after the Finals, questioning his professionalism: he hardly showed any excitement when celebrating the title, lost the series MVP trophy and wanted to avoid taking part in the celebration parade.
But the reality is that this should come as no surprise. It is the first time that Nikola has received so much attention off the court in his entire career, but he has always shown reluctance and little expressiveness both on and off the court.
This does not mean that he is not professional or that he plays with little intensity (he has not become one of the biggest stars in the global basketball scene by chance), but that his body language is calmer and that, probably, he does not have the same passion for basketball as others.
He makes up for his lack of the ‘Mamba Mentality’ that Kobe Bryant used to preach with an immeasurable amount of talent and basketball IQ on par with playmakers like John Stockton or Steve Nash. Every time the ball goes through his hands, it looks like he is going to make the right decision, always with a cold-blooded demeanor.
In that sense (their playstyles are very different) he reminds me of Tim Duncan. Jokic is the kind of player I would not be surprised to never hear from again after he retires and gives his Hall of Fame induction speech (as long as it does not coincide with a horse race).
He is also similar to the Spurs’ all-time great in terms of the magnitude of his achievements (although Jokic still has a long career and a lot to win before coming close to the one from the Virgin Islands), which at just 28 years old place him among the best in the history of the sport.
Two regular season MVPs (could have been three if not for Joel Embiid and voters fatigue), a championship ring and a Finals MVP are just some of the accolades he has earned in eight seasons in the best basketball league in the world. And if that was not enough, he has done it while putting up numbers never seen before by a center (25 points, 12 rebounds and almost 10 assists per game during the regular season).
His progression over the years is also worth noting, since he arrived as an unknown and somewhat overweight prospect to the NBA. He has gradually shaped his physique to improve his agility, also growing as a player to become the perfectly oiled and incredibly efficient machine he is today.
This growth paired with the gradual improvement of the Nuggets’ supporting cast has allowed the postseason catastrophes of past years to be forgotten. They already have one ring, and we will have to see how the league’s landscape will look like in the coming years, but I am sure they will be back for more with good old Nikola Jokic as their franchise cornerstone.
The 41st pick in the 2014 NBA draft (selected while a Taco Bell commercial was being aired on national television), who also started playing organized basketball at the age of 17 and would rather be with his horses than celebrate a championship ring, will continue to show his talent on the biggest stages that basketball has to offer.
Main Image: @nuggets.