As the Denver Nuggets star player, Nikola Jokic was on fire as he inspired the team to its first NBA Championship with a 4-1 triumph over Miami Heat, beating their rivals 94-89 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
It is also a first NBA title for Jokic himself, who also took the Bill Russell Finals MVP award, to add to his two previous regular season NBA MVP awards in 2021 and 2022.
The brilliant Serbian centre may now be one of the best players in the world but he has steadily developed to his current stature having first joined the NBA in 2014 as a second-round draft pick.
He has famously acknowledged he was once ‘addicted’ to Coca-Cola before his NBA career commenced, admitting to drinking three litres of Coke a day in his younger days.
Even if he’s nicknamed ‘Joke’ and ‘Joker’ He is now a serious athlete, but what are the secrets behind Jokic’s immense performance level that has seen him take his game and the Nuggets to a level above the rest?
Claus Antunes de Souza, a fitness trainer for Denver Nuggets recently told Spanish newspaper Marca that Jokic is, “the hardest worker on the team, or one of them.” He added, “His discipline is unbelievable. The definition of a true professional. He respects his limitations and understands what he has to do to get his mind and body at the highest level, is what he does.”
Meanwhile, Jokic’s teammate Jamal Murray, also one of the NBA’s top performers, believes he can get even better. Murray stated, “I think there is more to come, actually, from Jokic, and I think that we are going to see a side of him that we haven’t seen before, where he can be pure dominance, the whole time, even more than he has been.”
Although it’s Jokic’s performance level and his impact on the results of the Nuggets on court his season almost took a turn for the wrong when he controversially ‘shoved’ Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia during Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals, between the Nuggets and the Suns.
Jokic was attempting to retrieve the ball and restart the game but appeared to push Ishbia in an ugly courtside melee. Images of the fracas were broadcast around the world.
However, many fans – especially those of the Nuggets – thought it was much ado about nothing with the headlines and still images making the incident look worse than it really did. Jokic was fined $25,000 for the incident which the NBA classed as “improper contact with a spectator sitting courtside,” but crucially not suspended.
Jokic was non plussed after the game, saying, “The fan put a hand on me first. I thought the league was supposed to protect us, or whatever, but maybe I’m wrong.”
Tellingly he was not derailed by the controversy and kept his focus on delivering the goods on court for the Nuggets.
Having been founded in 1967 and having played originally in the ABA as the ‘Rockets’, now the Nuggets are on top of the world, winners of the 2023 NBA finals and elevated to such dizzying heights in no small part thanks to the non-stop work ethic and pure talent of the man they call the Joker.