March 05, 2021
The Serb was an afterthought when he was drafted in 2014. Since then he has helped evolve a position that some thought was becoming obsolete
Nikola Jokić: from EuroLeague reject to the NBA’s center of attention
Earlier this week the Denver Nuggets visited the Milwaukee Bucks for a dog-day NBA clash that few could have predicted would leave fans panting. On one side there was reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the Greek Freak; on the other, a supremely talented Serbian named Nikola Jokić. But in today’s NBA, Jokic, a center who still plays with his back to the basket, is the real freak.
In the era of positionless basketball, Jokić doesn’t just stand his ground; he holds the line for the generations of big men who preceded him. While Antetokounmpo picked-and-rolled his way to a respectable 27 points and eight rebounds, it was Jokić who ultimately grabbed headlines with his 37-point, 10-rebound, 11-assist night. It was the ninth triple-double for Jokic this season and the 50th of his career. The only center who has more is Wilt Chamberlain, not the easiest numbers-to-numbers comparison these days – especially not in the decades since big men have drifted farther and farther from the paint as the NBA has evolved from a bruising battle into a run-and-gun game.
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