Even though Sixers star Joel Embiid just won his first league MVP award after two-consecutive years of dominance by Nikola Jokic, legendary big man Shaquille O’Neal still considers the Serbian player to be the best center of the current campaign.
One of the most recurrent debates around the NBA these past seasons has been who deserves the Michael Jordan trophy for best player in the league, but the fact that the two runner ups have both been centers, it has heated the discussion even more over who’s the best in their position.
Check out what the “Inside the NBA” panel said about Jokic’s latest playoff performances:
There is no doubt that the Nuggets star has been superb all season, which is why he was at the top of the MVP ladder during most of the tournament. However, early this week the Serbian took it to another level, as he dropped 53 points and handed out 11 assists in Denver‘s Game 4 loss to Phoenix.
“Nikola Jokic is the best center in the game. You heard it from me,” O’Neal said after the Nuggets won their following match and now lead the series 3-2 over the Suns.
Postgame, fans witnessed an exchange between both the Hall of Famer and Jokic after his team’s victory really showed why the star center has a team-first mentality over his opponents.
“Joker, you’ve been having your way with the Phoenix bigs. So the next game do you go in offensive-minded and say, ‘Guys, follow me, I’m going for 40-45 points?” O’Neal asked him.
Jokic responded: “Yeah, I don’t play like that, I just let’s see what the game brings me.”
The Serbian is now the first player in Playoff history to total 175+ points, 65+ rebounds and 50+ assists over a five-game span
This Wednesday’s match was Jokic’s 10th playoff career triple-double, tying Larry Bird, Draymond Green, and Rajon Rondo for fifth most in NBA history. This means the Serbian is only one game away from catching Jason Kidd’s record, and two more to tie Russell Westbrook.
LeBron James ranks second in this list with 28, and Magic Johnson is the all-time postseason leader at 30.
In addition to this, the star big man already holds the mark for the most triple-doubles by a center in NBA playoffs history.
Nikola Jokic (175 PTS, 69 REB, 50 AST) is the 1st player in Playoff history to total 175+ points, 65+ rebounds and 50+ assists over a 5-game span. pic.twitter.com/P94iYrRnWm
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) May 10, 2023
“To be honest, I just like to win the game, so whatever it takes,” said Nikola after Game 5, as he shot 12-of-20 (60%) from the field and hit 2 three-pointers.
“If we play the way we did today, we’re going to have a chance,” he admitted, as the Nuggets are aspiring to reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the NBA bubble in 2020.