As we approach the finale of Jokic Week, I thought it might be appropriate to rank the big man’s five best games to date in his NBA career. From record setting triple-doubles, to laying it down at the Garden, to playing the best quarter of his career in game 82 last season, we’ve seen Big Honey turn in some memorable performances since taking over as the starting center for the Denver Nuggets.
You might say that ranking his performances is an exercise in futility—they should simply be appreciated for what they are, and that we should be content in knowing there will be more to come. You might be right about that as well.
But it’s super fun and there’s a bunch of highlights in here.
Let’s rank ‘em.
5. The Garden - @ New York Knicks, February 10, 2017
The game’s best players may not want to play for the New York Knicks, but just about everyone who has picked up a basketball has fantasized of playing in Madison Square Garden. At its peak, the Garden was home to one of the best atmospheres in professional sports, and somehow, through all of the Knicks’ misfortune and failures, it remains a staple setting in basketball lore to this day. For decades the NBA’s most talented artists have treated MSG like their own canvas.
Nikola Jokic joined David Thompson as the only two Nuggets to score 40 points at ‘the Mecca’ when he did so back in February of 2017.
4. The National Spotlight - Oklahoma City Thunder, February 1, 2018
Jokic was in the national spotlight when TNT came to Denver for the Nuggets’ matchup with OKC in February. As the hype began to build around Denver’s budding star, the scrutiny from those who didn’t watch him as closely intensified. Nuggets fans were pleased to see him step up and deliver a 29 point, 14 assist, and 13 rebound triple-double on national television. They were particularly pleased to see that 14th and final assist of the game, an inbounds pass that found the hands of Gary Harris, who drilled the game winning three as time expired.
3. Fastest Triple-Double in NBA History - @ Milwaukee Bucks, February 15, 2018
Later in that same month, Jokic and the Nuggets traveled to Milwaukee to take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. Denver won the game handily, thanks to Jokic’s historic triple-double. He finished the game with 30 points, 17 assists, and 15 rebounds, securing his triple-double in roughly 15 minutes, an NBA record.
For Jokic, these accomplishments are of the organic variety. There’s no concerted effort by him to get his numbers, which is what makes this so hard to believe. 15 minutes? You can’t even do that in 2k. Not unless you’re playing on rookie mode. Coward.
2. Game 82 - @ Minnesota Timberwolves, April 11, 2018
In the final game of the regular season, Jokic and the Nuggets traveled north to take on the Timberwolves as both teams looked to end extended playoff droughts. The Nuggets would ultimately lose this game, otherwise one could make a strong case for it holding the top spot. Some might remember the way Jokic appeared to run out of gas in the final minutes of regulation and overtime, but the real ones focus on his otherworldly third quarter performance. As the Nuggets began to lose control of an actual must-win game, Jokic put his foot on the gas, and unleashed a scoring display that the true stans won’t ever forget. He put up 17 points on a perfect 7-7 from the field, knocking down a variety of near impossible shots when no one else looked capable of generating points.
I know they lost. But seriously, watch those third quarter buckets again. That’s some All-World level scoring.
1. The Perfect Game - Phoenix Suns, October 20, 2018
I don’t care if it’s the Phoenix Suns, the Perth Wildcats, or a group of sweaty old dudes at the YMCA—if you go for a 35-point triple-double while taking just eleven shots, hitting all of them and not turning the ball over once, that’s probably your best game.
Jokic was flawless in what was the second game of the season, setting the tone for what’s already been an electrifying campaign. It was the most impressive athletic performance that I’ve seen in person, and it’s one of the moments that I’ll remember when this guy’s jersey is eventually hung from the rafters in Pepsi Center. The crowd went wild as he stepped to the free throw line for the final time, showering him with chants of “M-V-P”. Somehow, I think this performance has been overlooked.
Jokic played a perfect game that night.