Most NBA superstars have personalities in your face, or their athleticism puts them on sports center almost every night. But that’s not the case with Nikola Jokic.
The Denver Nuggets star isn’t getting much attention. He seems to stand on his own, and he doesn’t come out and posterize defenders throwing massive dunks.
However, he is still arguably the most dominant player in the NBA.
Jokic has potentially been the least talked about reigning MVP this year. While talking heads usually discuss Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo or even Demar Derozan, Jokic continued to fly under the radar, despite leading his shorthanded Nuggets team to a respectable record.
His teammate Jamal Murray has a problem with that. Murray recently blasted Jokic’s haters and explained why he deserves a second straight MVP.
Nikola Jokic is not your typical NBA MVP
When you look at the past 10+ years, NBA MVPs usually have unreal athleticism or superstar personalities. These characteristics, in turn, make him one of the most talked about sports stars.
Kobe Byrant won it in 2007-08 and LeBron James won it four times in five seasons between 2008-09 and 2012-13. They are both of the most respected NBA legends of all time. Fans flocked to their personas, and James was (and still is) one of the most athletic players the NBA has ever seen.
There were also players like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who in their primes could run and jump with anyone. And you can’t forget Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and James Harden, three of the greatest goalscorers of all time who also have big fanbases.
Nikola Jokic, the 2020-21 winner, is different in many ways. He does not make flagship pieces and he did not even rank in the top 15 this year on the NBAThe list of best-selling jerseys.
But he still dominates.
Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists last season. He also hit 56.6% of his shots and drained 38.8% of his three-pointers. Those numbers were enough for him to win his first MVP.
And he was even more impressive this year.
Jokic is recording 25.4 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game. He also lands 56.7% of his shots. But what’s most incredible is that the other two Nuggets scorers have basically been out all year. Jamal Murray has been out since last season with a knee injury, and Michael Porter Jr. has only played nine games due to a back injury. Jokic, however, led Denver to a 36-26 record.
Given the success of the Nuggets, Murray recently gave Jokic some major props.
Jamal Murray blasted Nikola Jokic haters
Jamal Murray had a front row seat to Nikola Jokic’s greatness in Denver. And he recently lambasted fans who hate the big man.
“I watch some of these people on social media talk like he’s not the MVP, and if you’ve actually played basketball and watched basketball, he dominates the game without jumping out of the gym, without move fastest, and he just picks defenses apart – he gets doubled on every possession – and still averages a triple-double without his two main scorers on the pitch,” Murray told Complex.
He continued: “How much more do you want it [to do]? He basically has to rise and dive between his legs for you to be happy. He does everything a winning team and a champion team need and it’s self-explanatory. He is the most valuable player every time he steps onto the pitch.
Murray makes some excellent points. Just because Jokic doesn’t ‘climb and dive between his legs’ doesn’t mean he’s not an MVP. And if all goes well, he could win the award again this season.
Where does he rank in the NBA MVP race?
The NBA MVP race has been hotly contested all year, but it has essentially been narrowed down to three men: Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Embiid and Antentokounmpo have had fantastic years. The former is averaging 29.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists, and he led the Philadelphia 76ers to significant success without Ben Simmons (until the team traded for James Harden last month). Giannis is also having a great year with 29.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists for the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.
There are of course other actors in the conversation, like DeMar DeRozan, Ja Morant and Luka Doncic. But Jokic must be the favourite.
All the people mentioned above have more to work with their teams. Jokic leads Denver to success with almost no help.
All in all, Nikola Jokic has a chance to join an exclusive club by winning another MVP this year. And he would become the least talked about two-time MVP in NBA history.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference
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