Photo Credit: CNN.com
Nicola Jokic finally got it done on the big stage to win his first NBA championship. He brought a championship to Denver when so many others before him could not. His run in the Finals and throughout the playoffs was historic, but where does that place him in the all-time greats category?
To understand where Jokic is now is to appreciate where he came from. The international player was a 2nd round draft pick of the Denver Nuggets and has made himself into the best center in the game today. Despite Joel Embiid's MVP season, Jokic is a two-time MVP and now you can add NBA champion to that list. One can argue he deserved it this year, but his lack of health took him out of the running.
Nikola Jokic had a monster clinching Game 5 as he tallied 28 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block. Jokic dominated on his way to Finals MVP as he averaged 30.2 points, 14.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.4 blocks in the playoffs. Jokic easily made up for not winning his third MVP by getting the chip and a Finals MVP to his legacy.
Photo Credit: Reuters.com
The 28 year old Jokic has barely scratched the surface to his prime years and can still add to his impressive resume. With 2 MVPs and one Finals MVP, he is off to an impressive start on par with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the same age. But does that make him an all-time great? I think it's fair to say that this championship now puts him in the conversation. As ESPN's Alan Hahn said, "He now has a key card to the room." A great analogy of saying he's a part of the discussion of an all time great. I think he is the most skilled big man that we've ever seen, on par or better than the great Hakeem Olajuwon.
He may not dominate the way that Shaquille O'Neal did in his prime, but he does dominate in the fashion that he plays. I was one of those misguided fools that accused Jokic of being a stat padder. But watching him play you see that he is an unselfish player that just makes the right basketball play all the time. If that means scoring he scores, if that means passing for an assist he passes. Jokic has already generated 121 triple-doubles, with 105 in the regular season and 16 in the postseason. He's already 7th on the all time triple-doubles list, and he should be able to pass Russell Westbrook's 198 triple-doubles, who is the current leader on the all time list.
Jokic has a long way to go to keep adding to his legacy, and it's not fair to put him against any of the other greats yet. If his career was the end right now, his numbers wouldn't stack up to anyone other than MVP trophies. But when it's all said and done and he gets closer to retirement, we're going to be talking about Jokic as one of the great centers of all time. And possibly one of the great players if he keeps on this trajectory. Prisoners of the moment already have him as the greatest and that's always a mistake. But Jokic deserves to be in the conversation just like we put LeBron James and Kevin Durant.