NUGGETS

Second MVP cements Nikola Jokic as the greatest Nugget of all time

May 9, 2022, 10:19 AM | Updated: 10:40 am
Nikola Jokic...
Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

John, Joe and Jokic.

This season, Nikola Jokic cemented himself as one of Denver’s greatest athletes of all time, reportedly about to win his second Most Valuable Player award in a row, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Jokic is the first multi-time MVP winner who makes a home in Denver (among the four major pro sports.)

Despite season-ending injuries to his two best teammates, the big man led the Nuggets to a 48-34 record. He carried the load, pacing the pickaxes with 27.1 points per game, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 1.5 steals and .9 blocks per game.

Jokic’s revolutionary play from a recently thought to be antiquated position can be summed as such. Of the league’s first 28 MVPs, 23 of them were centers. Since only five of the last 39 MVPs have been big men. Jokic is the only one of those five to win the award twice, and the first center since 76ers star Moses Malone won in 1981-82 and 1982-83, 39 years ago.

While Jokic’s team’s success has been derailed by injured teammates, limiting him to a conference final—he remains relatively young, having just finished his age 26 season.

His back-to-back MVPs make it clear, Jokic is in the pantheon of Denver athletes. Only John Elway’s back-to-back Broncos Super Bowls or Joe Sakic’s two Stanley Cups can eclipse Joker’s greatness.

As if there was a doubt about who the Nuggets representative on the Denver Sports Mt. Rushmore is, the award makes sure that Jokic is the all-time face of the franchise. No other Nugget has won the award, which he has now down twice. Only shooting star David Thompson has even earned a first-team All-NBA. Something Jokic will do for the third time this season.

While many don’t argue Thompson as the greatest Nugget of all time, his peak was tops until the 45th pick in the draft from Sombor, Serbia, came to town. Thompson’s best year was a 27-point, 4.5 assists and 4 rebounds, a game effort in the late 70s. Sadly his career was derailed by drug use, never playing in an NBA game after age 29.

But Jokic’s peak is not only brightest; he’s coming after some of the most successful teams and barling up the leaderboards of longevity.

The same year the Nuggets failed to have a player they can claim as solely their own on the NBA’s list of 75 greatest players is the year Jokic cemented himself to be on the NBA’s next all-time list. Carmelo Anthony made this year’s top 75 but may go into the Hall of Fame as a New York Knick and Allen Iverson was the only other player to get the honor who even played a minute for Maxie’s Miners.

There’s Alex English, who led the 1980s in scoring and was snubbed from the top 75 team. English leads the franchise in almost every statistic, but Jokic is quickly coming. Jokic ranks No. 9 in games played for the Nuggets, 310 behind English. The Serbian is fifth in points, trailing English by 11,000. But Jokic is already second in steals, behind English by 400, and second in rebounds, behind Dan Issel by 1,200. Based on this past season’s stats Jokic could finish next season with the franchise lead in assists and rebounds.

English and Issel are in the Hall of Fame, but Jokic is just waiting on his call at this point. Dirk Nowitzki is the only former NBA MVP not in the Hall of Fame, and it’s simply because he’s waiting his turn.

So yeah, the resume for Jokic is already there to be the clear-cut Nugget of all time.

As far as comparing him to Elway or Sakic, that’s probably a bridge too far, for now, at least. But he’s already done things those greats haven’t. Jokic should be right up there with John and Joe on Mile High City’s Mt. Olympus.
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