Nikola Jokic Is The Best And Everyone Will Just Have To Accept It
10:32 AM EDT on May 23, 2023
Which part of Nikola Jokic's dominating play in Monday's 113-111 Nuggets victory to sweep the Lakers was your favorite? Was it one of those impossible overhead threes? Was it the 30 points he somehow scored without even really exerting that much effort offensively? Was it the 14 and 13 he added for his eighth triple-double of the postseason—a stat we suddenly love again—to surpass Wilt? Was it the look of exasperation on the Lakers' faces?
These four games have essentially acted as Jokic's coming-out party, which is an odd thing to say about a two-time MVP. But it did confirm something voters may have let get away from them: Yes, he really is that good. He does things that a man who looks like that shouldn't be able to do, and he does them so capably and efficiently to make them look routine, or as some philistines might say, "boring." Not me, though. I love this shit. Every shot I just assume is going in; every rebound I assume he'll get; if there's an open man, he'll find them. The Joker is a fine nickname, but if we're talking movie villains, he's basketball T-1000.
Throughout this regular season, we've witnessed a case study in denial (and I include myself here). Some could not wrap our minds around this pudgy, easily bruised Serbian man being the first threepeat winner of the MVP since Larry Bird, when he had no championships, no Finals appearances, and (let's be honest) looked like how he looks. People don't go out of their way to watch Denver play and when they do, Jokic doesn't play a superficially aesthetic brand of basketball, or pump out one-man highlight reels, a point that ESPN is still harping on. None of that is fair, but the MVP award has never been fair, since it's a narratively driven award—because the NBA is a product first and foremost. But Jokic has now written a narrative that's impossible to deny.
As Joel Embiid became the shiny new toy—and with some help from Kendrick Perkins politicking on his behalf—the draw to reward a player more visible and traditional was there, and Embiid certainly did enough for it. It just kinda seemed to be less a coronation for Embiid than an active denial of Jokic's place in the top echelon of NBA history. But if a player truly belongs there, he'll earn his way in—MVPs be damned.
Jokic keeps dominating regular seasons because he's one of the only stars that plays consistently all year. This guy who is built like a damp McDonald's bag has stayed healthy, played the right number of games, and played them hard. But anyone that pretends the postseason doesn't bleed into how we judge these awards is kidding themselves, and now no one can say Jokic can't take his team deep (and, getting ahead of ourselves a little bit, is just four measly wins against the most Little Engine That Could–ass basketball team of all time away from that elusive title). What can you say against him anymore?
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