NUGGETS

Introspective Nikola Jokic puts Nuggets trip to NBA Finals in perspective

May 27, 2023, 3:13 PM | Updated: 3:16 pm

Nikola Jokic thought winning the Western Conference by sweeping the Lakers would feel like a bigger deal. It was just kind of… meh.

“Nah, to be honest, when we win, the win was nice,” said Jokic. “But like a half hour after that, it was just okay. I thought it was going to be a much bigger feeling, to be honest.”

Jokic casually addressed the local muggles on Saturday afternoon after a practice. Dressed in a dark, plain tank top and gold Muhammad Ali branded shorts, the best basketball player in the world looked ready for the pool more than preparing for the most-historic engagement in Nuggets franchise history.

While certainly satisfied about getting this far, it’s beyond obvious that whatever he may be searching for hasn’t been achieved.

“I thought I was going to have a bigger emotions when we won the game,” expanded Jokic on beating the Lakers. “I was really happy. I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes, nice. We made the history. This and that.’ At the end of the day, nobody is going to remember us two years from now (pause) maybe if we win it all, maybe it will be different. We will see.”

Jokic finished answering the question staring down at his feet.

While often brilliant, funny and engaging in these types of media sessions, there is clearly something holding him back. There is something that just isn’t clicking in terms of what he is trying to get out of this entire thing.

His girlfriend, now wife, left their home country of Serbia to go to college in Oklahoma. Coming to the U.S. was “nice” and likely more convenient for Jokic than some sort of dream come true.

He was a young man far away from home who said he never envisioned being in the NBA. He has two older brothers, one of whom had been in the U.S. for a few years before Jokic was drafted. Another who was quick to join once Jokic was a Nugget.

“I was more happy to be around them than to be in the NBA,” Jokic honestly revealed when asked about the importance of his family.

While he said becoming a father hasn’t changed his approach to basketball, he did admit it’s had its benefits.

“I mean, I knew even before (I became a father) that basketball wasn’t going to be the main thing in my life and probably never gonna be,” said Jokic. “I know I have something at home that is more important than basketball. It helps when you have bad days or good days, you go home and it’s always normal and I think that’s the best thing.”

Nikola Jokic is the best basketball player in the world and it’s become a bit of a nuisance. He clearly loves his team, coaches and the entire Nuggets staff. He loves poking fun at the PR guys and saying hello to all of the workers in the building. Jokic was quick to congratulate Denver Post writer Mike Singer on the birth of Singer’s first child.

He just isn’t sure how he’s suppose to feel at this particular moment. It’s fair to question if he may have thrown the MVP race late in the season as the negativity was becoming all encompassing. He just isn’t driven by the things most of us would expect.

He has no memories of any NBA Finals. He is surrounded by folks who want him to be happier with his success than he feels about it in his soul. He was quick to say people shouldn’t be mean to Joel Embiid who won what should’ve been Jokic’s third-straight MVP award.

However, to think he has a lifelong burning, Jordan-esque desire to win championships is frankly absurd. This doesn’t mean he will pour any less effort into the ultimate goal of winning four more games. He has been programmed from an early age to do the right thing.

But, like somebody who trains their whole life to run their first marathon, once crossing the finish line, there is a certain satisfaction conjoined by emptiness that chews away at your consciousness with the draining question: Is this it?

To whatever degree you are motivated to do it all over again separates the sane from the neurotic. But if Jokic achieves it all and has nothing left to prove, what exactly will make him want to spend less time with the people he cares about the most?

Nuggets fans should know Jokic is a man of his word and his contract. It’s highly unlikely he would ever break either of these promises. He certainly is wrong about being forgotten in two years. Jokic will be remembered forever in this dusty old cow town. But, it’s another reminder to appreciate the days that are present, as Jokic will not overstay what has been a wonderful journey for all.

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