As the Denver Nuggets prepare for the NBA Finals, star Nikola Jokic is on the doorstep of basketball immortality. However, if Jokic ultimately hoists his first Larry O’Brien Trophy, former All-Star Gilbert Arenas believes “no one will care.”
Appearing on “The Old Man & The Three” podcast, Arenas didn’t deny Jokic’s greatness but said the two-time MVP lacks the “It” factor that draws the eyes of the younger demographic and casual viewer.
“No one’s going to care. Let’s just be honest. I’m sorry,” Arenas said. “He’s not going to go from where he is right now to this super megastar because he’s not doing anything kids want to see.”
Essentially, Arenas is implying that while effective, Jokic’s style of play isn’t as pleasing to the eye as, say, a long-distance trey or a posterizing dunk. Now it may be hard to believe that a player who nearly averaged a triple-double this season can be boring, but Jokic isn’t the first great player criticized for not being flashy enough, as Arenas pointed out.
“Tim Duncan was four rings in, and he went to go win his fifth one, we said, ‘Oh s—, this is boring.'” Arenas said. “Nobody wants to see Tim Duncan and the Spurs in the championship. That’s just the facts. No matter how many rings they won. No one really cared about the Spurs like that.”
Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid derailed Jokic’s quest toward a third straight MVP. Although, during the race, Jokic’s critics grasped at straws, creating a narrative around voters that a third MVP for the Nuggets star might be bad for basketball, regardless of whether he’d earned it. Denver’s rarely bashful head coach, Michael Malone, addressed the situation in January, saying voters who wouldn’t vote for Jokic again were “lazy.”
Either way, it seems Jokic can’t win. If the Nuggets fail to grab the NBA title this year, haters will saddle Jokic alongside other greats who’ve earned personal hardware but couldn’t win the big one. Then again, if Jokic and the Nuggets are victorious, those same detractors will group them with Duncan and the Spurs as champions, but lackluster ones.
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