Nikola Jokic is one in a million and he now stands on the brink of NBA greatness

Nikola Jokic is one in a million and he now stands on the brink of NBA greatness
Jokic is eyeing up history with the Nuggets in the NBA Finals
Jokic is eyeing up history with the Nuggets in the NBA Finals
Over the past decade, the NBA has undergone a radical 3-point revolution. The genius of Stephen Curry has prompted a dramatic rise in field goal attempts from behind the arc, which has bought the 'little men' into the equation on a far more regular basis. Yet as the Denver Nuggets prepare to face off against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, they will be relying on their 6'11" centre Nikola Jokic (28) to lead them to glory.

On the face of it, Jokic doesn't look much like your typical athlete. A seven-foot, 280-pound behemoth doesn't typically tend to catch the eye. But Jokic is a different breed, not anything of the likes the NBA has ever seen.

Jokic runs the Denver offence singlehandedly and is one of, if not the best, passing centre the game has ever seen, all while averaging just under 30 points in the postseason. Couple this with the fact that his field goal and 3-point percentages have been 53.8% and 47.4% respectively in the playoffs, and the Serb has all but confirmed himself as the best player in the NBA, all while cruising along at his own pace.

He is a relentless scorer but also brings the best out of his teammates due to his selflessness and phenomenal basketball acumen. He and Jamal Murray have become one of the best double acts in the NBA.

Jokic touched the ball 6804 times during the regular season - more than anyone else, while also averaging 2.69 seconds per touch, which suggests he moves a lot quicker than he actually looks.

And I repeat: he is a seven-foot, 280-pound man.

No centre in the history of the game should be able to do what he does. But that's what makes 'The Joker' such a rare commodity. He is one in a million.

There is a strange, transcendent sort of elegance to the way he plays. It doesn't really seem to make sense. He has even trademarked his own shot now - which really needs to be seen to be believed.

Even when you guard him for one of the best possessions you think you’ve guarded him,” the great LeBron James said after their thumping 4-0 defeat in the Western Conference Finals to the Nuggets.

"He puts the ball behind his head, Larry Bird style, and shoots it 50 feet in the air and it goes in. I think he did it like four or five times this series.”

When you have a guy like Joker - who is as big as he is but also as cerebral as he is - you can’t really make many mistakes versus a guy like that."

And that sums Jokic up. He shouldn't really work. He shouldn't really be this successful. But he is, and there is nothing you can do to stop him.

Denver's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - who has previously played with LeBron on the Los Angeles Lakers - had the highest compliment for his current teammate.

The only difference is that LeBron can jump higher."

After the Nuggets eliminated the Phoenix Suns in the second round of the playoffs, Kevin Durant said: "I always knew how great he was. I wasn't surprised at all, Jokic is an all-time great...he'll go down as one of the all-time great centres to ever touch a basketball."

Jokic was the Western Conference Finals MVP

Jokic can float past his opponents like they're not even there but will use his brute strength if you get in his way. He does most of his damage inside the paint, however, give him space, and his jump shot will get you.

Many saw Anthony Davis as the best defender in the league, yet Jokic made light work of him as they swept the Lakers.

His stats over the last few months speak for itself. Jokic is averaging 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 10.3 assists, which is just mind-boggling. No player in history has gone through the entirety of the postseason averaging a triple-double, and he stands on the cusp of that. His eight triple-doubles during this playoff run is a record, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain.

That's not all. He matched Chamberlain's record of four consecutive triple-doubles in a postseason, while also becoming the first player in NBA history to have multiple 30-20-10 playoff triple-doubles.

He is just 28, and you can absolutely guarantee more records will tumble as the years go on.

Prior to this season, Jokic was a back-to-back MVP and was unlucky to finish second to Joel Embiid this year - who was also worthy of picking up the award. He then added the Western Conference Finals MVP to his trophy cabinet too.

Following Embiid's less-than-impressive performances in the playoffs, many have been quick to downplay his exploits in the regular season, saying Jokic should have been crowned MVP for a third time in a row.

Jokic didn't want to hear it though.

"I mean, I think it's - people are just mean in saying that Embiid shouldn't have won it. I think he should have won it. I think he was playing, if you watch it, extremely, extremely tough basketball through the whole season... He was really amazing in 82 games or how many games he played," he said.

That's Nikola Jokic in a nutshell. For all his greatness and brilliance on the court, he is humble and unassuming off it.

After their Game 1 victory over the Suns in the playoffs, Jokic lavished praise on teammate Murray.

He is playing amazing. He is definitely showing what he is capable of. He is our best player and we are following him right now," he said.

No one really believes that Murray is Denver's best player, but again, that just epitomises Jokic. He may receive all the adulation and accolades, but as long as the team succeeds, he is happy to go under the radar.

And at one point, he really did.

In 2014, Jokic was drafted in the second round by the Nuggets - the 41st overall pick. In fact, he was drafted during a Taco Bell commercial. Now that is really going under the radar. Nothing was expected of the big centre coming over from Europe. 

But he did have to work to become the best player in the NBA. Nuggets coach Michael Malone detailed how much effort he put in when he was drafted.

"That first Summer League in Vegas, 300 pounds, out of shape.

"No one - and if anybody tells you different, they're full of sh*t - no one could have seen that he'd be a two-time MVP passing Wilt Chamberlain, it seems like, every other night," he said.

"That speaks to his dedication to his craft, getting in great shape, and understanding for him to fulfil his potential, he had to work harder. And he's done that."

Jokic has won over the vast majority of the NBA world, but there are still those who won't give him the credit he deserves due to his style of play. He has been described as a stat-padder by ESPN's Kendrick Perkins - a frankly blasphemous assessment. 

"Have you seen any stat-padding out there?" Malone said. "I'm serious, enough of the silliness. The guy is a great player.

"Give him his damn respect. Stop chopping him down at the knees. He's a great player, and give him the respect he deserves."

Jokic's performances in the postseason have confirmed his status as the best player in the NBA

Ultimately, Jokic won't care one bit. Nor will the Denver Nuggets. He has taken his team to their first-ever NBA Finals, and they now sit on the precipice of history. 

They face a tough test against Jimmy Butler and Miami Heat, who have defied expectations time and time again. Nevertheless, Denver go in as the big favourites and will be confident that with Jokic, they can get the job done.

Adding an NBA Championship - as well as Finals MVP - to his name will take the legend of Nikola Jokic to new heights. If he continues heading on this upward trajectory, when all is said and done, his name will be spoken in conversations about the greatest centre of all time.

Follow Game 1 of the NBA Finals live this Friday at 02:30 CET on Flashscore


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