Whether Nikola Jokic is ready to admit it or not, Denver is his home for life

Jun 13, 2023, 3:34 AM

DENVER—Nikola Jokic appeared despondent—I had just asked him how he felt about the championship parade.

“When’s the parade?” Jokic said looking to his left on the interview podium towards the Denver Nuggets media folks.

“Thursday,” responded a helpful public relations person.

“No,” grimaced Jokic wiping his forehead in agony. “I need to go home.”

That response, like so many Jokic quips, was tinged with a sense of, “Is he joking or not?” type of humor. Likely, it’s filled with both. Did Jokic know there was a parade on Thursday?

Uh, well…maybe?

Would he much rather be on the first possible Kroenke-paid first class private jet back to Sombor, Serbia?


Jokic got more serious when I asked him about how he was truly feeling less than an hour after accomplishing the most remarkable achievement of his basketball professional life, especially considering he said he was surprised he didn’t feel more emotions after sweeping the Los Angels Lakers.

It was the most simple question possible.

How do you feel now?

“We succeeded (in) our jobs,” explained Jokic. “We won the whole thing. It’s an amazing feeling. Like I said before, it’s not everything in the world. Ok, not I, WE won it. It’s not the most important thing in the world still.”

“There’s a bunch of things that I like to do,” Jokic continued. “I mean that’s probably a normal thing. Nobody really likes his job or maybe they do, they’re lying.”

The muggles laughed.

“But, uh, it’s a good feeling when you know you did something (when) nobody believes (in you,)” Jokic kept on. “It’s just us. It’s just the Nuggets organization that believes in us. Every player believes in each other and that’s the most important thing.”

Jokic is truly nothing without his family. He repeats that mantra so often, it’s impossible not to believe. He treats basketball like a job. This is also something mere mortals like us have a hard time understanding. How could something so remarkable be simply a job? However, it’s that exact mindset that makes Jokic who he is and sets the tone for the unmitigated championship caliber of the Nuggets’ high-quality culture.

Just like working in a coal mine, there is a beginning to a day’s work and an end. This time, as the whistle blows, the performance review is incredibly satisfying.

However, there exists pure unadulterated joy only when the job and the love of his family collide.

After going through the drudgery of the interviews with the media and the joyful tossing of Jamal Murray into a workout pool near the locker room, Jokic took his family, the World Championship Larry O’Brien trophy, and his NBA Finals MVP Bill Russell trophy into a screened off room set up for the players to be professionally photographed.

There was a plush red background and perfect lighting. It was the most exquisite photo booth in the world. Jokic’s daughter playfully banged on the trophies like a pair of bongos. The infamous Jokic brothers hugged and kissed their younger brother. Jokic’s wife — who he has been with since they were teenagers — was ever-present in all the photos, as well as all parts of his life.

Once the coolest family photos you can imagine were taken, Jokic scooped up his daughter like the most precious rebound possible, placing her on his broad shoulders for a seven-foot-tall horsey ride down the Ball Arena hallway.

Along their journey, they ran into some photographers who asked if Jokic could repeat the now iconic Serbian children’s song about the hedgehog drinking water. It’s the same tune that Jokic has been seen repeating to his daughter after games as he places a finger on his right hand into his left-hand palm.

Jokic brought his baby girl down to eye level, lovingly repeating the song to her. The moment was likely a bit too overwhelming.

“She’s not into it, ok, ok,” laughed Jokic putting his daughter back on his shoulders.

He looked around to make sure his tight-knit family was still with him. Like a conductor clearing the tracks for his train, he nodded to “follow him”.

In a haze-filled corridor of victory-smelling cigars and carpets splashed with the remnants of magnums of Moet, Jokic disappeared into the Nuggets locker room. You could tell he arrived amongst his teammates as “MVP, MVP, MVP,” chants echoed out the celebratory hallways, spilling into the souls of all who love this player and this team.

Whether he wants to admit it, Jokic has found something profound. It’s possible he doesn’t even realize it.

Jokic is home.

Denver, forever, will be his family.


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