NUGGETS

All I want for Christmas is some respect for the MVP

Dec 24, 2021, 4:36 PM

During this holiday season, Nuggets fans should be thankful for the gift that keeps on giving: Nikola Jokic. He’s currently the best basketball player in the world, even if many NBA fans can’t see it.

It happened to Tim Duncan, even after he won multiple championships. It happened to Dirk Nowitzki after he eliminated Kobe Bryant’s Lakers, the Durant-Westbrook-Harden Thunder and LeBron’s Heatles in a single championship run. And now it’s happening to Nikola Jokic right before our eyes.

For whatever reason, the majority of the basketball-loving public outside of Denver or Serbia just won’t accept the reigning MVP as the most dominant player in the league. Talking head TV shows debate daily if Kevin Durant can catch Steph Curry in the MVP race with no mention of the Joker. Twitter polls see fans regularly rank Joel Embiid as a better player.

Former Nugget Richard Jefferson was seen dismissively shaking his head on ESPN when Zach Lowe entertained the idea of Jokic as a back-to-back MVP winner. Even the NBA and its TV partners didn’t see Jokic and the Nuggets as one of the 10 teams fit for their marquee Christmas Day showcase games.

He’s actively disregarded despite every advanced metric showing Jokic is the league’s most unstoppable force, playing with an efficiency the game has never seen.

From the FiveThirtyEight.com player ratings:

Offensive RAPTOR per FiveThirtyEight.com

RAPTOR WAR per FiveThirtyEight.com

 

From BasketballReference.com‘s NBA Leaders:

And from the NBA.com efficiency leaders:

Efficiency Leaders per NBA.com

With Jokic on the court, Denver can compete with anyone despite their injuries. When he’s off the court, they’ve often looked like a bottom-five team in basketball, going just 1-4 in the games he’s missed.

He’s not just the best player in the league, he’s playing the best by a wide margin. Jokic’s current player efficiency rating is almost two full points higher than the single greatest season ever recorded. Yet, he still isn’t mentioned in the same category as Curry, Durant, LeBron or Harden.

The lack of respect has reared its head on the court as well. Markieff Morris took a cheap, hard foul that led to a Jokic retaliation and a one-game suspension. Referee Tony Brothers ejected Jokic for complaining about being roughed up repeatedly by the Wizards. He’s pushed, bumped, kicked and scratched nightly in ways that would never be tolerated by fans or the league if teams played that way against Lebron, Durant or Curry.

He’s not an AAU legend or a No. 1-overall draft pick. He doesn’t appear on national shoe commercials or social media. His highlights are fundamental footwork and incredible passes instead of high flying dunks and killer crossovers. Those are all factors in how he’s perceived.

George Karl told us on The Fan Nuggets Postgame Show that in his time at ESPN he learned that the Denver market doesn’t move the meter for the network, so there’s the media coastal bias.

We’ve come to expect it as Denver sports fans, and it’s frustrating when our players get overlooked. Jokic himself certainly doesn’t care about the hype or the storylines. He cares about winning games, and ultimately a championship. Until the Nuggets are healthy enough to make a deep playoff run so he can shine in that spotlight, the perception isn’t going to change.

The silver lining is everything that’s written, talked about or tweeted doesn’t matter. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks proved that last year. Historically, the best players almost always play for the championship in the NBA. And for the first time, the Nuggets have the best player, whether the basketball-loving world wants to acknowledge it or not.

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All I want for Christmas is some respect for the MVP