Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets to the NBA Finals, the franchise's highest achievement that was already in the Finals, but it was at the ABA, in the last year of the league's existence.
Contrary to what many people think of that league, it was a quality final. Denver was then coached by the legendary Larry Brown, and led by David Thompson and Dan Issel, who were also NBA All-Stars, where they reached a regional final with Denver in 1978. In that 1976 final, they lost to the New York Nets, Dr. J's team, one of the greatest in the game ever. Not wafer fish.
This look at history, out of respect and appreciation for what was here before, is also a good opportunity to take a look at Jokic's place in the big picture. Because many say that already, his place is in the top 10 greatest chins ever. Is it? Let's see.
Nikola Jokic. Where is he in broad view?, Photo: AP
Tier 1: Those who claim greatness
When the league deliberately changed the nature of the NBA game with the rules it applied between 2000 and 2004, the most dominant position was center. Guards who have won championships and/or won MVPs are almost nonexistent (making the 4 times Jordan did both things that season a little more special than even one might think).
So it's no surprise that to this day, most of those claiming the unofficial title of "greatest player in history" are chins. It's three: Wilt Chamberlain, who in the 60s averaged 34-24 points and rebounds per game. Bill Russell, his eternal rival, who provided lesser personal numbers but led Boston to 11 championships. And the one who took over the league starting in the 70s is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
To close the gap between them in terms of historical greatness, Jokic will have to retire with at least 3-2 championships in his closet. There is another way.
Russell vs. Chamberlain. They are at the highest level, Photo: AP
Tier 2: Around Top 10
Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon share 6 championships, 27 All-Star selections, 2 MVP titles, and 3 Finals MVP titles. Shaquille is almost always counted in the historic Top 10, Hakeem usually coming in between Nos. 11 and No. 15.
With 5 All-Star selections, 5 All-Star selections, 2 MVP awards, and now a favorite in the Finals, there's a good chance Jokic will find his place in that castle the day he retires. He's on the right track.
Shaquille. Hypnotic personality, photo: AP
Tier 3: Around Top 20
Moses Malone and David Robinson were also champions, league greats, statistical monsters too. At the rate of Jokic's personal accomplishments so far, perhaps one championship this season (with the Finals MVP) will be enough to count him among them.
Tier 4: Top 50+-
So we already counted 7 players. The remaining three spots will go to one of Patrick Ewing, Dave Cowans, Willis Reed, Wes Unseld, Bob McAdoo and Dwight Howard.
And that's exactly the bunch with 5 All-Star selections, 2 MVP titles, and mostly basketball from outer space that we've never seen before in our lives. People are already saying that Jokic not only infected, but also passed.
The hottest sports articles and updates on your Telegram
If the Serbian somehow manages to lose to Miami in the upcoming finals, it will be okay to wait as he enters the top 10 of the greatest centers in history for another season. But if in two weeks or so he'll have his first ring on his finger, the list of the biggest 5s ever won't be the only one to need to freshen up.
Wrong? We'll fix it! If you find a mistake in the article, please share with us