Nikola Jokic, the Serbian “Joker” who dominates the NBA


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Star of the Denver Nuggets team, Serbian pivot Nikola Jokic has been crowned best player of the NBA regular season for the second time in a row. Formerly obese, he managed to become one of the greatest basketball players in the world. From the top of his 2.11 meters, the basketball player is a discreet star, but who could soon sign a record contract.

It was in his stable in Sombor, in northern Serbia, that Nikola Jokic learned the news on Thursday, May 12. His Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone and team general manager Tim Connelly traveled from the United States to celebrate with him his second consecutive title of MVP (Most valuable player – best player) of the regular season of NBA.

Surrounded by his family and with his horses, his great passion, the pivot seemed very moved to once again receive this coveted trophy. Aged 27, he is now part of the same club as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo . All basketball legends, who except for Nash and himself, have all also been crowned NBA champions.

“Just being around Bill (Russell) and all the guys who have made history in this league and in this sport… I mean, just that, that says a lot. It means a lot,” said- he reacted a few hours later on the NBA on TNT show.

The ‘Joker’ dubbed ‘Joker’ has averaged 27.1 points on 58.3% shooting, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists this season, improving his stats in nearly every area over the year previous. Beyond the numbers, he is rewarded for his considerable impact on the performance of the Nuggets which he led to the 6and place in the Western Conference standings, without however being able to prevent their elimination to 1er round of the play-offs against Golden State.

Acclaimed by 65 journalists out of 100 in first place in the MVP ranking, he, like last year, outstripped the Cameroonian pivot of Philadelphia Joel Embiid and the Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo, double winner in 2019 and 2020.

“I was taller than the others, and bigger too”

If his physique – 128 kg for 2.11 m – imposes today on the floors of the NBA, it nevertheless earned him mockery when he was younger and he discovered basketball with his two brothers, in Sombor, in Serbia. “I was taller than the others, and bigger too,” he told Bleacher Report. “I liked math, history, but not physical activities. In high school, I couldn’t do a push-up.”

At the time, the young boy drinks three liters of soda per and at 17, he displays 135 kilos on the scale. Despite his poor physical condition, he was spotted for his talent and began to make a name for himself in the KK Mega Basket club in Sremska Mitrovica. He was then spotted by the North American basketball league and during the 2014 draft, he was selected in 41and position by Denver. Ironically, when his name was announced during this great televised mass, EPSN decided to run an advertisement for a taco brand.

When he arrived in the United States, the image of junk food stuck with him, sometimes rightly so, as shown by this anecdote reported by Basket Le Mag: “For his first dinner with the staff, Jokić takes out a huge jar of ice cream and asks the leaders if they want some. He is hardly moved by their refusal. On the contrary, he takes the opportunity to swallow everything. (…) The franchise establishes a special program for its rookie. First step, stop Coke !”

A recovery that quickly bore fruit: he gained muscle and now takes care of his diet. At the end of his first season, he finished third in the ranking of Rookies (rookie players) of the year. Gradually, the Serb is making a place for himself in the highest championship in the world. In 2019, he was selected for the first time for the All Star Game, an event which brings together the best players in the League. The pivot also carries his national team with which he won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

On the floor, Nikola Jokic knows how to do everything: score, pass, create, rebound, counter, defend. He is “the reincarnation of Larry Bird”, basketball legend of the 1980s, summarizes one of his admirers and connoisseur, Gregg Popovich, the coach of San Antonio.

Towards a record contract

The Serbian giant is not only attracting praise from the best basketball technicians, he is also becoming the darling of Nuggets fans. “I’m happy to live here in Denver. The city is great and the fans are incredible. There are more and more people in the room,” he told Basket USA in 2017.

The beautiful love story between the European player and the city of Colorado could also continue, since he is currently negotiating a contract extension and could sign, according to the American media, for more than 240 million dollars over five years. This would set a new NBA record.

But despite this new award, number 15 keeps his feet on the ground. “Everyone knows I’m the same guy, so hopefully I’ll stay the same after this,” he said Wednesday, with a modesty matched only by his talent.

With AFP

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