Nikola Jokic’s rise to the summit of the NBA has been like no other.
The Serbian has now joined the likes of Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Steph Curry in being named the NBA MVP, but he is on his own in becoming the first second-round pick to win the award.
Prior to the Serbian’s historic victory, the lowest draft pick to be named MVP was 15th, with Steve Nash and Giannis Antetokounmpo sharing that feat.
Jokic hasn’t just beaten that record, he has smashed it out of the park. Not only was he the 41st draft pick seven years ago, his selection wasn’t even aired, with a Taco Bell advert being aired instead.
The fast food giants bought valuable advertising space during the 2014 NBA draft, with households throughout the United States watching the selections roll in.
It was a safe bet for Taco Bell to air their advert during the second-round, right? Picks this low down rarely amount to any sort of quality, do they?
How wrong they were.
As America salivated over the cheesy burrito, the Denver Nuggets' selection of Jokic flew completely under the radar.
Fast forward to today, and ‘The Joker’ has just become the first Nuggets player to be named MVP, and did so without missing a single regular season game.
After a season that saw him become the first player in NBA history to average at least 26 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists on better than a 52% shooting ratio, he must have known that he would come extremely close.
However, when he first started out as a basketball player, he couldn’t have predicted such a rise to stardom.
“To be honest, I didn’t even think I would be in the NBA,” the 26-year-old admitted. “My goal when I started to play basketball back home, it was playing in EuroLeague because that was kind of the closest top league to my country.”
In reality, the vote wasn’t even close. He won 91 of the 101 first-place ballots cast, with the fan vote going to 2011 MVP Derrick Rose.
The news was broken to Jokic and his teammates in a Tuesday team meeting, with Nuggets gaffer Michael Malone boasting that this win will be the “first of many” for the 6”11 ace.
Life’s about little moments,” Malone said. “And Nikolas got about 56 moments where he’s shown he’s the MVP.”
LeBron James himself managed just one fifth-place vote. Although he extended his streak of at least one vote in the MVP race to 18 years, how little he was mentioned in the discussion is perhaps a nod to Father Time catching up with the LA Lakers star.
If the baton is now being passed over to the new regime, expect Jokic to lead the charge.