Nikola Jokic might be the best athlete Denver has ever claimed

Apr 7, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball as Memphis Grizzlies guard John Konchar (46) guards in the third quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

For a guy who doesn’t seem to care about individual accolades and accomplishments, Nikola Jokic is doing something wrong. After all, it seems as if he can’t help but rake them in – all of them.

On Thursday night against Memphis, Jokic hit a mark that has never been seen before in any NBA season – ever. His 35 points, 16 rebounds and 6 assists sailed him past the 2,000/1,000/500-mark, unprecedented territory for any player in the history of the game. In truth, points were the only part of that equation even in question. At current, the Joker has 2,004 points, 1,019 rebounds and 584 assists on the season. Ironically, he’s hit these lofty marks in just 74 games and in 12 fewer minutes than he played last season, a campaign in which he was named MVP.

When asked how much reaching the milestone meant to him after the game, he simply said, “I like it.”

That, in a nutshell, is the Joker. We’re not sure if that’s the somewhat broken English talking, the funny guy who’s intentionally funnier than you might think, or the ho-hum-triple-double-machine who doesn’t seem to care – like, he really doesn’t – about his incredible statistical feats.

We know this though: Nikola Jokic is unquestionably the greatest Denver Nugget of all-time. And with all due respect to the likes of Alex English, David Thompson and Carmelo Anthony, it’s not even close. Not anymore.

And just to top the sundae with a cherry, Jokic’s performance helped guide the Nuggets to a win, which sealed their inclusion in the NBA playoffs as a sixth seed. Denver’s win ensures that no play-in tournament will be required.

If Nikola Jokic doesn’t win the NBA MVP for the second year in a row, voters should have their privileges revoked. What more can a player do? Aside from hitting the unprecedented milestone, he (practically) singlehandedly took a team that’s short of it’s second and third highest-paid players. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. were supposed to somehow figure into the mix this season, and neither one did; Joker still clowned the rest of the West by getting the Nuggets into the playoffs.

“The MVP isn’t even a competition,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said as a matter of fact following the game. “There’s other great players. I’m not saying they’re not great players. But what Nikola Jokic has done this year – with this team, everything we’ve had to go through – is just incredible.

“He was good last year, and he’s even better this year.”

Should Jokic win the MVP, he’ll become the first Denver athlete to win a league MVP twice. Peyton Manning was the NFL MVP five times, but just once as a Bronco (2013). Sitting courtside to watch Jokic put his stamp on what should be a second MVP season was new Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, who’s yet to win an NFL MVP, but has a great shot to do so this season in Denver.

Does winning back-to-back NBA MVPs make Jokic the greatest athlete Denver has ever called its own?

That’s a debate for another time, as there have undoubtedly been some greats – John Elway, Manning, Terrell Davis, Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg. But nobody could argue that the Joker doesn’t belong in the conversation. Nobody would be irresponsible putting him atop the list, even among those names.

What Denver has in Nikola Jokic is special. That’s not a matter of opinion; after doing things that have never been done in the game of basketball, it’s fact.

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