As the Portland Trail Blazers and 27 other NBA teams officially shift their sights to the 2023 NBA Draft and ensuing offseason, the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat have taken center stage. Utilizing that platform after his series-opening 104-93 win in the NBA Finals, Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokić joined Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Grant Hill and Shaquille O’Neal to discuss the evolution of the big man and basketball’s global rise.
Within that conversation, the 2021-22 and 2022-23 Most Valuable Player got the opportunity to acknowledge his own basketball roots, listing players he sought to model. Among those mentioned was former Trail Blazers great LaMarcus Aldridge. In response to Hill’s question about whom he patterned his style after, Jokić jokingly said it was O’Neal, before responding as such:
“To be honest, back in Serbia, I didn’t follow the NBA that much. Dino (Radja), Peja (Stojaković), and Vlade Divac because they were, and Dražen Petrović, they are like the ones who first made the NBA, and opened the doors for every other, let’s say European players. or players from Ex Yugoslavia.
But when I came here, it was Tim Duncan, it was LaMarcus Aldridge, it was Boris Diaw, Dirk Nowitzki and those kind of guys.”
The Aldridge comparison to Jokić makes sense, largely in how proficient both were in the post-up area. For the first seven years in which they were tracked — from 2015-16 to 2020-22 — Aldridge was among the top-10 in points per game on post-ups, including finishing No. 1 in 2017-18 and 2018-19. This past season, Jokić finished No. 1. The two also share unique shooting touches for players of their size, both of which they used to become All-Stars.
The nod to Petrović was also a neat touch, calling to tribute another former basketball great. Petrović played 95 games with the Blazers in 1989-90 and 1990-91, highlighted by his integral role as an offensive spark plug during the 1990 NBA Finals run. He would later be recognized as a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer.
For Jokić, now three wins away from his first NBA championship, the questions are sure to keep coming as he continues his historic run. His Nuggets prepare for Game 2 on Sunday, Jun. 4 at 5:00 p.m. PT.