Appearances can be deceiving when it comes to basketball player Nikola Jokic. The 28-year-old Serb, who is 2.10 meters tall and weighs 129 kilograms, lacks the traditional characteristics that distinguish the stars of his sport: he is not fast, but even slow, and he cannot jump high and his muscles are hidden under a layer of cloth. fat. However, he is currently the best player in the NBA. From Thursday onwards joker In the finals of the American basketball competition.
In the semi-finals, the Denver Nuggets team led by Jokic defeated LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers team, who did not win any match: 4-0. This is mainly due to the Serbian mentor, who averaged 28 points, nearly 15 rebounds and 12 assists in the series. Triple double, as it is called; Double numbers in three categories. Jokic has already collected eight of those in the playoffs — a record.
About the author
Koen van der Velden describes De Volkskrant About sports in the United States. Lives in New York.
Watch him run and look like he's climbing up a slope over a sand dune with a sack of potatoes on his back. Everything about Jokic is unorthodox. The hulking basketball player often looks exhausted when he comes back to the other side. But it's always followed by a great inspiration, and a pass no one thought was possible. Jokic is particularly exceptional at passing the ball, especially for a player his size.
In his eighth season in the NBA, he reached the Finals for the first time, against the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics. (The second finalist remains unknown as of this writing.) On an individual level, Jokic has already won awards in recent years: he has twice been voted MVP (Most Valuable Player) and MVP of the competition.
His coach Michael Malone describes him as a once-in-a-generation talent. However, he, like everyone else, initially underestimated the Serbian's potential. “In preparation for his first season, he weighed 135 kilograms and was not fit,” Malone told a sports blog. Ringing. “I thought he was a nice player. No one would have expected him to become a two-time MVP. And whoever claims it is Full of shit.'
Jokic is the ultimate underdog. He only turned professional at the age of 17 with Mega Basket from Belgrade. In the 2014 NBA Draft, a time when clubs select new players, forty players were selected before his name was called. We had now reached the second round, and the moment passed in silence. When Jokic was elected, ESPN ran an ad for the fast food chain.
Jokic could become a “valuable reserve,” a scout judged in a report before the Serbian came to America. Another wrote: “An ordinary athlete has no speed or jumping power.” “His capabilities are limited.”
Eight years later, he is the backbone of one of the best offenses in the NBA. For the Nuggets, it all starts with Jokic. He sometimes dribbles the ball as a playmaker, or positions himself around the free throw line to serve his teammates from there, with his back to the basket. Sometimes he seems to have eyes in his back. “He sees everything,” teammate Aaron Gordon said. “With a gesture or a look he directs you in the right direction. He is a maestro with the ball.
If no one is there, Jokic will easily throw the ball across the hoop himself. Even when he is a goalscorer, he sometimes looks clumsy, but he is exceptionally efficient. He barely gets up from the ground when he shoots, and sometimes he shoots while standing on one leg.
Like a football player, he threw a 3-pointer across the net at the final buzzer against the Lakers, just over James' fingertips. It seemed lucky, if not for the fact that Jokic has done it several times before. It made James desperate. “When you think you've done everything you can, the ball still flies,” the American said.
When Lakers coach Darvin Hamm was asked about a solution to Jokic's problem, he jokingly suggested kidnapping the unruly Serbian player as he was leaving his home early on the day of the game. He didn't have a better answer.
Jokic isn't your average star player off the field either. Unlike many of his colleagues, he does not appear in commercials, does not have a patent for basketball shoes, and hates incendiary and provocative statements. He cannot be found on social media. He deleted his personal files. A waste of time, Jokic thought. The man from Sombor, Serbia, has a dry sense of humor. He has a horse farm in his hometown.
He was fine with the fact that Cameroonian Joel Embiid was named MVP of the year, not him. He was already tired of the attention and discussion. Jokic finished second.
The election proved once again that the NBA is currently dominated by players born outside the borders of the United States. For the fifth year in a row, the MVP award did not come from the United States. Four of this year's top five players are from abroad. Among them, Jokic is the only one who still has a chance to win the tournament.
Tv fanatic. Freelance thinker. Social media enthusiast. Total bacon lover. Communicator.