Nikola Jokic Vs. Magic Johnson
Print Friendly and PDF

I’m too old to follow the NBA closely anymore, but a grade-school friend whose judgment is excellent suggests that the big Serb Nikola Jokic (6’11” 284 pounds) is the greatest basketball genius he’s ever seen.

The above video focuses on the reaction of 6’2″ 185 pound Steph Curry to Jokic burying a 40 footer at the buzzer. Curry is a reasonable choice as Jokic’s rival as a basketball genius.

As a passer, Jokic reminds me of Bill Walton, but Walton averaged five assists per game in his MVP season of 1978, while Jokic has been averaging about nine assists per game this season. My impression is that assists correlate with Most Valuable Player awards, partly because having good shooting teammates helps you in the MVP voting, partly because it really is a good measure of when you peak in value as a teammate.

And while Jokic is a lousier defender than Walton—both men are listed at 6’11,” but my impression from following Walton down Rush St. in Chicago for 15 minutes in the 1990s is that Walton is more like 7’1″—Jokic is a vastly better outside shooter.

Here’s a Reddit discussion of who is comparable to Jokic, and it’s mostly fellow white guys: Walton, the Gasol brothers, Larry Bird, fellow Serb Vlade Divac, and the giant Lithuanian Arvydas Sabonis Sr. (who impressed me as the best passing big man I’d ever seen in the 1988 Olympic Soviet-USA final, but who was broken down by the time he arrived in the NBA). Only toward the end does anybody mention fellow not-all-that-athletic basketball genius Magic Johnson.

It’s an interesting question, how well sports fans can compare athletes of different races.

Print Friendly and PDF