Denver Nikola Jokic was overweight as a child and before joining the NBA he drank three liters of Coke a day. The Serb is still unathletic but an outstanding passer and now the most valuable player in the league.
Bounce isn’t one of his strengths. Neither is speed, Nikola Jokic can hardly be called an athlete. “He doesn’t look like a superstar”, coach legend Gregg Popovich once said of him, “he looks like a big fat man without muscles.” And yet the Serb is the NBA’s most valuable player.
As a child, Jokic was overweight. Even today, at the age of 26, he is far from being slim. But the basketball star from Sombor in the far north of the country managed to outdo everyone in the election for the MVP of the North American professional league, despite a disadvantage that is not for him.
Jokic has undergone a metamorphosis. Six years ago the center came to the Denver Nuggets, he loved sweets and had a very bad vice: Cola. “After training I drank one glass after the other, I couldn’t stop,” said Jokic some time ago. He got away from it.
Before his rookie season, he lost 13 kilos on a diet, today he weighs a good 130 kg. The weight fluctuates. Jokic is unathletic, that will probably always be the case. Hardly anyone could have imagined earlier that “someone like that” would prevail against all the musclemen in the NBA.
After Dirk Nowitzki (2007) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019, 2020) Jokic is the third European to be awarded an MVP. Nowitzki did not get the most votes because of his athleticism, but the 2.10 m tall Jokic could not have held a candle to the Würzburger in this area.
But Jokic, who won 91 (!) Out of 101 possible votes for first place against Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) and Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), has a very special quality. He’s a brilliant pass-giver – enormously creative, tricky, unpredictable.
Jokic has “extraordinary skills”, is “clever and completely selfless,” said Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs and US national coach, “it works.” And horse lover Jokic, who wanted to be a jockey as a kid, has strong numbers. On average, he came to 26.4 points, 8.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds in the previous main round.
“According to the statistics, it was the best season of my life,” said “Joker” Jokic. The MVP trophy is “something like the cherry on top”. Jokic is also the lowest-drafted MVP in NBA history. It was dragged 41st place by Denver in 2014.
This rise was not foreseeable, the title is still possible. Jokic is currently playing with the Nuggets in the play-off quarter-finals against the Phoenix Suns. He’s still in business.