Nobody Knows How to Market Nikola Jokić
When the game's best player doesn't care about whether you know it
Outside the game analysis of the NBA Finals, there’s this odd meta-conversation playing out in the sports media. There’s just something about the NBA that lends itself to such introspection, this constant check in on the league’s reach. I used to think I was the only person focused on that front, but it turns out that the “How popular is the NBA?” question is about as mainstream as it gets.
The media realization is setting in that the relatively unheralded, small-market Denver Nuggets are actually a potential rising juggernaut and that their Serbian superstar is the league’s best player. That realization inspires another: Well, if this is the present and future of the sport … how do we market it?
Nuggets coach Michael Malone seems to care about that question, to the point of prickliness. He likes to chastise the media over too much Lakers focus or about unfair dismissals of Jokić’s brilliance. Nikola Jokić himself, however, has no outward interest in the project. I’m not even certain if he knows there is a project.
It’s been amusing to watch these Finals press conferences wherein American journalists attempt to get some emotion or intrigue out of the Serbian savant. The man just refuses to participate, which probably speaks well of his personality and sense of perspective, but leaves the media in something of a lurch.