By Eurohoops Team/ email@example.com
Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone has seen his superstar center Nikola Jokic reaching some astonishing heights over the years and there’s the peak of winning an NBA championship to look forward to this year.
Malone has been Jokic’s coach since 2015 when both of them arrived at the Nuggets. He has a lot of reasons to be proud of the phenomenal player that the Serbian big man has become and many more to feel the same about him for non-basketball reasons.
“That he’s never changed,” Malone answered when asked what he’s most proud of about Jokic outside of basketball. “I think we all see it in all walks of life. How do fame and fortune affect you. And for most people, they go to their head and they become something different. Sometimes they forget where they’ve come from and who helped them get to where they’ve gotten to. And the one thing that I really love about Nikola – forget basketball. Just as a young man who’s a proud father and a husband. Through all the success, the MVPs, the max contracts, all that stuff… he’s still the same guy. I marvel at that.”
Jokic is widely considered to be one of the most humble and easy-going superstars in the NBA and Malone emphasized how impressed he’s by the fact that fame hasn’t affected his character.
“Because I’m in the league and around this game for a long time,” Malone said. And that’s a rarity in this business. For a celebrity and a superstar in general. The fact that Nikola is still a humble, selfless person. He cares about his horses. The guy is just who he is. I couldn’t have more respect for him as a man because of that.”
In 2014, Jokic was selected by the Nuggets with the 41st overall pick during a Taco Bell commercial. Nine years later, there’s little doubt that he’s the biggest steal ever in the history of the NBA Draft.
When asked if being the #41 pick gave Jokic an extra push, Malone answered that he doesn’t believe that has any influence in his progress.
“It’s funny how different players use maybe a perceived slight,” Malone said. “‘I was drafted, I was traded’. They use that as motivation to carry them forward. In the eight years that I’ve been with Nikola and I’ve s spent time with him not only during the season but offseason and off the court. I never felt him having a perceived slight about being drafted #41. For him, it’s been more like ‘somebody took a chance at me.’ Even though he was drafted during a Taco Bell commercial.”
“I think with Nikola, it’s not about looking backward but looking forward and challenging himself to be the best player he can be. Early on, being the best player he could be wasn’t necessarily about a skillset. It was about maturing, growing up, handling adversity, dealing with the referees, getting into the best shape of his life. Losing weight. And I think that once all that happened that kind of coincided with our rise to where we’ve been the last five seasons now.”
This rise continues as Jokic and the Nuggets are looking at the biggest picture around: Bringing a chip to Denver.
“I can’t speak for Nikola but I haven’t felt that being picked #41 has been a motivating factor for him to become a two-time MVP and be a a guy who averages a triple-double in the playoffs. I think what really motivates him is no more individual accolades and awards. He wants to be a world champion. And I think that’s what motivates Nikola Jokic as well as everybody else in this building. “