Gregg Popovich is well aware of who he is and how much weight his words carry. So when he says something speaking in hyperbole, he means it.
On Wednesday, after the Spurs lost to the Denver Nuggets, the Hall of Fame-bound coach compared Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic to an all-time great, Larry Bird.
"He's a reincarnation of Larry Bird," Popovich said after Denver's 132-126 win, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
Gregg Popovich on Nikola Jokic: "He's a reincarnation of Larry Bird"- Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) August 5, 2020
Jokic finished the game with 25 points, 11 assists and four rebounds, shooting an efficient 58.8 percent from the field and an incredible 60.0 percent from three.
It's not the first time Popovich has gone out of his way to praise Jokic. After being eliminated in Game 7 of the 2019 playoffs, Pop described Jokic as "magnificent" in the series.
Comparing Jokic to one of the best players in ever play the game at this point in his career is a stretch, but given the fact that both players have been able to become All-Stars and compete at a high level with subpar athleticism by NBA standards, of course you can see where Popovich might be going. Jokic has often been compared to bigs like Arvydas Sabonis or Vlade Divac, but maybe the Bird comparison is more of a fit.
Jokic seems to have the same feel for the game that Larry Legend had and he's as efficient a player as Bird was throughout his career.
It will be a long time, however, before Jokic can put his resume side by side with Bird, but for now, he can go home happy knowing that one of the greatest coaches in league history sees that sort of potential in him.
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