Joker” has used his high basketball IQ and otherworldly shooting and passing skills to become one of the league’s top players.

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Nikola Jokic is one of the most unlikely superstars in the league. His lack of speed and athleticism makes him the antithesis of most modern NBA stars. Fortunately, he has embraced his supposed weaknesses and learned to maximize everything he is good at. Apparently, the Serb already had this mindset even as a teenager.

“Basketball, it’s about teammates,” Jokic replied when asked how he was so effective despite not being able to jump high or run fast. “When I’m open, I score. I pass. I play basketball. Just play simple.”

Falling in the 2014 draft

Based on his supposed age and the jersey in the video, Jokic might have made the statement during the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit, a basketball exhibition game that pits the USA Basketball Men’s Junior Select Team against some of the best young international players.

Sometime after the contest, Jokic was drafted into the NBA as the Denver Nuggets’ second-round pick of the 2014 draft. It’s unclear why the big man fell so far in the draft, but teams might have probably seen his lack of foot speed and leaping ability as a liability.

As it turned out, the other franchises missed out on a generational superstar, which, of course, meant good news for the Nuggets.

Gunning for a third straight MVP

Using his high basketball IQ and otherworldly scoring and passing abilities, the 6-foot-11 has taken the league by storm. He has won the past two MVP awards and currently leads the race this season.

When “Joker” claimed his first trophy in 2021, he became the first non-athletic MVP since, arguably, Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Interestingly, the last time a player won three consecutive MVPs was Larry Bird, another ground-bound all-time great to whom Gregg Popovich once compared Jokic.

Only time will tell if the four-time All-Star can defy the odds and overcome the possibility of voters’ fatigue to win again in this campaign. But even without the additional hardware, Jokic’s legacy is already intact and has surely inspired the next generation of players who are also short in athleticism.

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