With Denver Nuggets superstar centre Nikola Jokic crowned this season's MVP, consider this: has there ever been a more improbable MVP in league history?
Aside from being 6-foot-11, the Serbian big man doesn't exactly scream "NBA player" when you look at him.
He's probably in the bottom percentile in the league in terms of speed, quickness and athleticism. His physique is far from the chiseled mold of the likes of former MVPs like Giannis Antetokounmpo or LeBron James. He himself once told ESPN's Rachel Nichols that he has the "worst-conditioned body in the NBA." His playful and light-hearted demeanour can be mistaken for the competitor that he truly is.
And yet, the 26-year-old has solidified himself as one of the best players in the NBA today. But how?
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Jokic is a basketball mastermind. He just might be the greatest passing big man in the history of the NBA, and if he's not already, he will be by the time his career is over. At that point, he might even be in consideration for one of the best passers of all-time, regardless of position.
He's an unstoppable force in the paint, he's a knockdown shooter from the perimeter and he commands the attention of every player on the floor when he has the ball in his hands.
Jokic's approach to the game is something the NBA has never seen before, making him one of the most unique players - and MVPs - ever.
Take a look at the moments this season that left us baffled at how Jokic finds a way to dominate.
The Sombor Shuffle
The name of the move was created by the Nuggets' play-by-play announcer, in honour of Sombor, Serbia, where Jokic is from. It looks like a H.O.R.S.E. shot you would take in your backyard or some lazy, knock-off version of Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki's one-legged fadeaway.
And somehow, Jokic has turned it into one of his most unguardable go-to moves.
Last season, one-time Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green described the shot as "frustrating as hell."
"You feel like you've done everything you can possibly do to make him take a bad shot, and it hits nothing but the bottom of the net," Green explained.
The move perfectly depicts Jokic's play style - unorthodox but extremely effective.
It's not that we haven't seen NBA players make quarterback-esque passes before, it's just the frequency in which Jokic pulls it off that makes it so impressive.
If the opposing team is slow to get back on defence, Jokic will make them pay with a pin-point pass over the top that would make even the best deep-ball throwers in the NFL proud.
Two of my favourites in particular from this season were this one against the Miami Heat, which was as pretty as any pass NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers threw this season:
hut hut hike pic.twitter.com/lU6nuvOHR1- Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 28, 2021
And this one against the Houston Rockets with only 0.9 seconds remaining in the half for an easy layup:
0.9 on the clock, Jokic throws it deep to PJ Dozier off the made free throw! pic.twitter.com/3oIK50t0Po- NBA (@NBA) April 25, 2021
I mean, look at the way he aligns his hips to his target after a slight roll-out to the left. That's pocket presence that even Tom Brady can respect.
At one point this season, Jokic even had the Denver Broncos inquiring about his availability when the team's quarterback depth chart was hit by COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Hey, @nuggets.- Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 29, 2020
Is Jokic available?
Asking for a friend.
Eyes in the back of his head
There are certain plays Jokic makes that have you believing he has a sixth-sense for reading defences, as well as a telepathic bond with his teammates.
Not to pick on the Rockets again, but this pass had me thinking Jokic may actually have eyes in the back of his head:
We are blessed to watch this man play basketball. pic.twitter.com/RVBogdplFa- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) April 17, 2021
He just might be the most dangerous player in the NBA to double-team, which is unfortunate for opposing defences to try and stop him with one-man defence. He feels the double coming and dishes a sweet no-look pass over his head, through the outstretched hands of two defenders for an easy layup.
These are just a few instances that make Nikola Jokic who he is - the most unique MVP in NBA history.
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