In June, as the last seconds of the N.B.A. Finals ticked off the clock and the victorious Denver Nuggets began to celebrate, the team’s star, Nikola Jokić, stood by himself. He shook hands with members of the defeated Miami Heat, pulling them close, cradling their heads with his enormous palms. He clapped a few times, rhythmically, with the crowd. Bruises were blooming on the backs of his pale arms; confetti fluttered around his shoulders. His prominent nose, which goes a reddish pink during games, returned to its normal color. Someone handed him a towel, and he wiped the sweat off his face. Then the ESPN reporter Lisa Salters approached him for a postgame interview. Jokić is nearly seven feet tall, and he had to crane his neck to hear her.


“Nikola,” she began, and he nodded, as if to confirm that this was, in fact, his name. “They didn’t go away,” she said, talking about the Heat. “You had to take it.” Jokić praised his opponents, then admitted that it had been an ugly game. Although he had scored with ease, in his inimitable, gape-mouthed way, the Nuggets had missed more shots than usual, relying, atypically, on their defense to pull them through. “That’s why basketball is a fun sport, you know,” he continued. “It’s a live thing. You cannot say, ‘Oh, this is going to happen.’ ” It was a truism—sports are unpredictable—but also a distillation of his peculiar genius. Jokić, one of the most daring and original players that basketball has ever seen, makes the game seem at once logical and chancy, in the way of living things. On the court, he and his teammates become a single organism; he is its brain. “I think he has the mind of all five positions,” the Nuggets assistant coach David Adelman said, last spring.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *