Figurehead of the Denver Nuggets, favorites for the NBA title, Serbian pivot Nikola Jokic will be the player to watch during the finals against the Miami Heat. Double MVP, in 2021 and 2022, the number 15 has an atypical profile, on and off the floors, far from the usual standards of a league which attracts the spotlight and where the stars are much more than athletes.
From our correspondent in New York,
Staples Center in Los Angeles, May 22. After being swept away four wins to zero by a “blizzard” from the Rocky Mountains, LeBron James clarified things at a press conference after a journalist’s question about Nikola Jokic’s stratospheric performance during this series (30 points, 12 rebounds and 12.5 assists per game).
« I think a lot of people don’t understand that what he does is just huge. Beyond the statistics, he is monstrous, he impacts the game like very few players, we don’t talk about him enough. He’s not flashy, but he’s a very special player », lance LeBron James.
The observation made by the “King” is clear, and shared by several experts and players across the league. But for those who frequent the Serbian pivot, the player’s lack of exposure is not displeasing to him, quite the contrary. “ He likes his tranquility, he is not attracted by the lights, by the media attention, by the “bling bling” side of the NBA. It’s not his thing, and he’s happy like that “Says Boniface Ndong, the former Senegalese pivot who has become an assistant coach at the Nuggets, who works with him. Jokic is a discreet, simple giant who lives his dream as an NBA player without rhinestones or glitter.
An adventure that begins in Colorado in 2014
Born in Sombor, a medium-sized town in Serbia, Jokic grew up in a family in a precarious situation, but which was affected by the orange ball virus. His two brothers, Nemanja and Strahinja, introduced him to this sport. His love for basketball is not immediate for him, who prefers horses and good food. He becomes obese, and his large size (1.92 m at 14 years old), pushes him to give himself a chance in the sport which has seen the national idols Vlade Divac and Dejan Bodiroga shine.
He catches the eye of recruiters, and after a stint in Vojvodina, he is recruited by Mega Vizura, the best academy in the country. He began his professional career at the age of 17, and found himself drafted two years later by the Denver Nuggets, who selected him in the second round, in 41st position. The American adventure of the “Joker” begins in Colorado in 2014.
« He quickly settled into the team, and the player development plan went according to plan “says Ndong. He adds : ” Jokic fell through the cracks of a lot of scouts, good for us » . He finished third in the race for the title of rookie of the year during his first campaign across the Atlantic, then went from strength to strength. He goes through selections in the best five majors of the season, and reaches the individual grail with his first MVP title in 2021. His somewhat clumsy profile does not always please, he does not make waves, but the Serb makes a “ bis repetita” the following year. The Jokic phenomenon does not stop any more.
A monster of work
Despite all the individual recognition, Nikola Jokic is however far from being among the most appreciated stars of a league which advocates the show with a bang. dunks of LeBron James, counters of Giannis Antetokounmpo, and salient muscles like those of Joël Embiid.
The Serb doesn’t have the biggest trigger, prefers three-point shots and drops the ball in the circle instead of slamming a big one. dunk. He seems unathletic, a little clumsy, and his smile combined with his nearly shaved head gives him the image of a gentle giant. ” A lot of people are wrong about him, he’s a monster of a job. As for his physique, I can tell you that a guy who weighs 130 kilos and who runs 40 minutes per game is that he has an extraordinary physical capacity “says Ndong, who adds” his strength is his basketball IQ. An exceptional intelligence, he knows what to do and when to do it. He has very little waste in his game, it is the mark of the very great ».
Outstanding competitor, the Serb wants to bring a first title to the franchise of ” Mile High City », and thus mark the history of a team which has been gaining momentum for several years, and which has achieved the second best record of the regular season (53 wins for 29 losses). ” The city deserves it, the fans deserve it and all my teammates and I are motivated like never before. Jokic said during a press briefing.
Go home to take care of his horses
Always very interesting with the press and close to the fans, Jokic also has everything of an anti-star, very protective of his private life, and has no profile on social networks. The life of the Serb is very simple. “ He wins his team, pulls out crazy stat lines and goes home, like everymansays Ndong, he doesn’t make magazine covers, he’s very close to his family and he’s a simple guy ».
Nikola Jokic is a quiet hero, a far cry from Serbia’s other big sporting idol, Novak Djokovic. He does not go out in nightclubs, does not commit deviations, does not take a political position. He likes to fish, enjoys barbecues with friends and takes care of his horses in his stud farm in Sombor, his little paradise.
« He is determined to win this title of NBA champion, then he will return home this summer to find his family and live his hobbies with ease, far from the spotlight, as he likes. “, concludes the Senegalese assistant.
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