‘Basketball Is Not The Main Thing In My Life.’ | Finals MVP Nikola Jokic Shows You Can Be Great Without Being Obsessed

NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic would already be back in Serbia if he had things his way. But there are a few championship obligations, like Thursday’s parade for the Nuggets in Denver. But his perspective on basketball offers a refreshing alternative to the accepted paradigm that one must be singularly obsessed to become the best in the world.

Following the Nuggets’ Game 5 victory on Monday clinching the franchise’s first NBA championship, a lot of the online conversation focused on how unbothered Jokic seemed with al the fanfare. His reactions subdued. Certainly not the image of Michael Jordan clutching his first trophy in 1991 as a member of the Chicago Bulls or Kevin Garnett’s “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE” scream when the Boston Celtics won in 2008.

Nikola Jokic Likes Basketball But Loves Home

In Jokic’s on-court interview with ABC’s Lisa Salters when asked how he felt, Jokic said, “The job is done. Now we can go home.”

Jokic’s need to want to be home of course is born in the fact that he is not American. He grew up in Sombor, Serbia. When the Nuggets’ season ends he doesn’t head to Los Angeles with many of the NBA’s players. He goes home to spend time with is family, friends and especially his horses.

Jokic’s superstar turn runs in direct opposition to what American NBA fans expect. For decades Michael Jordan has been the archetype. A maniacal ruthless focus on being the best, to the exclusion of everything. The player who patterned his entire persona and game off of Jordan, Kobe Bryant, was the exact same way.

Bryant once famously said, “friends can come and go, but banners hang forever.”

In his postgame press conference Jokic was continuously asked how he felt about winning a championship and accomplishing something so important and his answer was always some variation of basketball isn’t the most important thing in his life.

“OK, I won it. Not I. We won it. But I think it’s not the most important thing in the world. Still there is a bunch of things that I like, that I like to do. Probably that’s a normal thing, right? Nobody likes his job. Or maybe they do, they’re lying.”

There Is More Than One Path To Greatness

To say Jokic doesn’t care about basketball would be wrong and foolish. You don’t become the best player in the world, a two-time league MVP (should’ve won his third straight), a Finals MVP and become the first person in league history to lead the playoffs in total points, rebounds, and assists by not caring.

Just to accomplish that from where he was when he got drafted 41st overall in 2014 took a ton of work on his body, his game, his mind, everything.

But it isn’t the most important thing in the world to him.

Growing up in Serbia he never thought about playing in the NBA because it seemed so far off.

His approach to the game game as a young player and now as a champion is the opposite of what most American-born players think is needed to be successful.

Jokic is not about rugged individualism and the singular hero narrative. He is far more happy making his teammates better and celebrating their success. He once said “the open man wins the game.” That is how he plays.

Of course it helps to be 7 feet tall, 280ish pounds, an excellent kinematic mover, and possess elite processing speed, touch, vision, etc. But all of that in a player with a different perspective wouldn’t be Jokic.

This isn’t to say that the Jordan, Kobe or LeBron James model doesn’t work. If that’s how a player wants to be and it works for them, great!

But for all the young kids out there dreaming of starring in the NBA someday, that old message of singular obsession as the only way to achieve rings a lot less true today.

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