Joker

All In One Night The Joker Slaughters All His Critics

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All in one night – all the criticisms and doubts and cheap shots Nikola Jokic, aka The Joker, has been absorbing seemed to make him more determined than ever to shut the mouths of all those negative people once and for all, namely Shaquille O’Neill who said he didn’t deserve this year’s MVP, and Kendrick Perkins who said he didn’t deserve last year’s MVP, and countless others who say he can’t jump high and is too slow and too unathletic.

All in one night – this Serbian basketball thing of wonder swung back at all of them, sick of the slights, tired of the media asking him whether he cares about winning the MVP and asking him why he doesn’t seem to enjoy basketball all that much.

All in one night – it felt as if he had made up his mind he had heard enough from all the naysayers and was tired of hearing how great the Minnesota Timberwolves defense is and what a ferocious defender Rudy Gobert is – winner of four NBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards.

All in one night – he threw one punch after another after another at this supposed defensive dynamo – an avalanche of right and left-handed hook shots, teardrops, one-foot/wrong-foot baby floaters, up and under scoops, bomb three-pointers, one-handed 75-foot outlet passes for easy layups, completely in flow behind-the-back passes to his teammates for open shots.

All in one night – he made the world stop and wonder how one person could play the game of basketball as perfectly as it can be played with the most pressure imaginable on him and his team.

All in one night – this guy took a slaughterhouse approach to the game that could not be explained or appreciated unless you actually saw it.

All in one night – The Joker took the game over in every way, scored 40 points, dished out 13 assists, grabbed 7 rebounds, and had no turnovers.

All in one night – he left no doubt whatsoever about who the best basketball player on planet Earth is.

All in one night – his guy from Serbia carried his team to a 3-2 series lead after losing the first two games and left everyone wondering if anyone has ever played a more perfect basketball game in a situation as consequential as last night.

After the game during his press conference – which is always as entertaining as his exquisite style of pass-first play – he was asked about a situation last night when he went down the middle of the lane and dunked with unusual force for a mild-mannered and ultra-humble super-duper star.

“I’m a freak of nature,” he said. “I wanted to show off my athleticism.”

He smiled. You couldn’t quite tell if he was just making the media members laugh for fun, but you were pretty sure it was a passive-aggressive punch back at all the so-called basketball experts who snipe that he’s not athletic even though he’s the best player now and maybe better than any we have ever seen – and I’m including Michael Jordan in that group.

Don’t believe me?

Watch the highlights from the game or any of the other incredible YouTube videos of this guy playing basketball on an unfathomable level over the past several years.

Truth is – and we all need to accept this right now and never again question it – this guy is a freak of nature and a superhuman athlete.

His hand-eye coordination, the ability to see guys open no one else can and deliver the ball on time in the right location, IS athleticism. The ability to swat and deflect balls with his hands that are so quick you can’t even follow them with the naked eye, IS athleticism. The ability to handle the ball at 7 feet tall and sling passes in directions and angles never done before by any other basketball player IS athleticism. Making shots of all flavors so frequently IS athleticism.

All of you who don’t understand that are dummies.

Jumping high and being quick afoot are overrated basketball skills. Putting the ball in the basket consistently takes much more athletic skill, and this guy is so much better at this than all the other guys who can jump high and have quick feet and all those who can’t and anyone else.

Yet this is not all.

Being the most loved guy on your team – while also being by far the best player – is a rare combination. Elite players aren’t usually the nicest.

This guy is not just the nicest among his team but the entire league and, for that matter, the sports world overall.

When he was given his third MVP award his teammates swarmed around him because he’s not a jerk. He doesn’t brag about himself; he talks about how important all his teammates and coaches are to his success.

He has a particularly close relationship with Aaron Gordon, who visits Jokic in Serbia in the off-season and is one cool person whose stellar all-around play has been so crucial in this series. On the court, Jokic is uncanny at spotting Gordon for under-the-basket cuts for dunks. Gordon, an exceptionally talented athlete, and the rest of the Nuggets have learned from Jokic the joys of passing the ball to teammates for scores. Gordon now excels at slick bounce passes.

By example, Jokic has shown them all how much fun basketball is when the team’s only focus is hitting the open man for a shot rather than competing to lead the team in scoring.

Gordon doesn’t care how many points he scores nor does Jokic, Jamal Murray, or anyone else on the team. They measure their success by how well they pass the ball to the guy with the best opportunity to score and there is nothing more beautiful about basketball than that. They genuinely like and care about each other.

He has taught his teammates the right way to play basketball, which is rare in the individual-centric NBA where most guys concern themselves with getting big stats so they get paid more money.

The entire way of thinking about how to play basketball, a game born in America, is being changed by a guy from Serbia who prefers to pass first because he says when he makes a good pass and a guy scores two players are happy.

Yet when he has to take over an entire game and season, and put the entire basketball universe on his shoulders as he had to last night, the Joker can and will do that.

And like I’ve never seen – and all others who stayed up — he did that the other night.

I almost didn’t see the game because it started at 10:30 pm Eastern time and I had to get up for work the next day early. But I couldn’t miss the show the Joker puts on every time he takes the court. He’s so mesmerizing because he plays the game so well in every way you’re supposed to play it well without pomposity a scintilla of selfishness.

So smart is he.

Wicked cool.

I stayed up and watched and am sure glad I did because what I saw this guy do – all in one night – was one of the finest demonstrations of athletic skill under pressure I have ever witnessed.

This one guy, on this one night, cemented in the minds of everyone in the basketball universe, most of whom don’t even know where Serbia is including me, that there has never been a guy who plays basketball the way he does nor as well as he does.

This one guy, the Joker, is like the “space cowboy” Steve Miller sang about in his mega-hit song “The Joker.”

A talent seemingly from outer space, this hoops savant is like a Serbian cowboy.

He loves horses.

But he’s no joke.

Not this Joker.

Not that night.

Sammy Sportface

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Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here: Sammy Sportface Has a Vision -- Check It Out Sammy Sportface -- The Baby Boomer Brotherhood Blog -- Facebook Page
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Author Profile

Sammy Sportface
Sammy Sportface
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:

Sammy Sportface Has a Vision -- Check It Out

Sammy Sportface -- The Baby Boomer Brotherhood Blog -- Facebook Page

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