On June 9, 2021, Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was elected MVP of the 2020-2021 NBA season, becoming the 3rd European player to win an MVP trophy in a bit less than 70 years. A week after I wanted to come back on this and talk about it differently.
Now you might be thinking : why is this so special ? Well I’m going to tell you why.
In an era where professional sports and especially basketball is more and more praising physical beasts, it’s hard for anyone across the world to identify themselves with these guys, as most of us aren’t forces of nature whether it’s in terms of strengh, size or agility. More than identification, it’s hard for someone who can’t physically dominate to think he or she can make it to the professional level. Not all of us can shoot like Curry, drive like Kyrie or dunk like Giannis. But Nikola Jokic is not this kind of person. He’s tall yes, but he’s slow, probably missing some muscles, shoots weirdly and in general plays basketball in way everyone would consider “non-academic”. Yet, he made it to the NBA, drafted at the botttom, and quickly became the center piece of this Nuggets team. Like many he went through the critics saying that he was fat, slow, and I’m not even talking about all the critics about the way he plays. However, here is your 2021 MVP, averaging 26.4 points per game, almost 11 rebounds and 8 assists, and most importantly, still playing the way he’s been playing for years now. There’s no fancy moves, no deep 3’s, no raging dunks and no wild blocks. But there’s passion, determination and IQ. Jokic is smart, crafty and he loves the game. He doesn’t look like the kind of guy who can win an MVP but he did, thanks to these three qualities. Jokic never tried to play basketball differently, he just kept working and improving his own way to play basketball. We tend say that athletes never forget about where they come and how hard they worked to make it to the top level but for Jokic don’t forget about where he comes from means more than money, family or whatever. It also means never forget his own basketball, never forget the way he learned to play. Jokic didn’t tried to create a different version of himself, he just tried to improve who he is, again, again and again while keeping his passion alive.
You’ve seen a few times when other players pull me or grab my leg. I love that kind of play on the basketball court. This is just how we play in Serbia. Last year, I scored an and-one, and I just start yelling, excited. And the guy just push me, and I fall down and make a flip. My teammates start fight for me. That’s what I want to continue doing. Not to make fight, but just to get passion into the game. I don’t want basketball to just be a job. I just want to keep that passion.Nikola Jokic in “How we play basketball in Serbia” (The Players Tribune)
I’m small, slow, I shoot the ball a bit weirdly and I don’t care because I’m happy with it and Jokic’s success proved me I was right to be okay with it. And trust me, we’re a lot of players in the same case around the world. This is why Nikola Jokic’s MVP means a lot for every basketball player in the world, this is why Nikola Jokic’s MVP means more than just an MVP title. Whatever your age, whatever the way you play, whatever your level. If you love the game, if you enjoy every second you’re spending on a basketball court anywhere in the world, if you work on the qualities you already have and if you’re just enjoying the way you play, no matter how weird it can be, then you’re good ! It’s a proof that even if you’re not the kind of person who apparently can make it to the professional level, you can still make it ! Jokic’s MVP is an amazing example of determination and passion for the game.
And for all of that M. Jokic thank you and congratulations.