Nikola Jokic’s top-five moments of his second consecutive MVP season

No. 5: The Swat

When/where: Feb. 12, 2022; Scotiabank Arena

Had Nikola Jokic not jumped like he was in the dunk contest, the MVP still would’ve authored a superlative line against the Raptors. But the Nuggets needed his hops to secure a stunning 110-109 road win and snap Toronto’s eight-game winning streak. Denver was up one with only a few seconds left when OG Anunoby corralled an offensive rebound and had a chance to seize the game. Jokic flew across the lane, leaped with the Raptors forward and swatted the potential game-winning look into oblivion. It was among the cleanest blocks of Jokic’s career and one more highlight to advance the idea that he’s become a plus-defender. Among centers, Jokic’s 109 steals were nearly 30 more than the next closest defender.

No. 4: The Takeover

When/where: March 6, 2022; Ball Arena

Nikola Jokic entered the Sunday affair against the Pelicans battling some type of bug. He hadn’t eaten for a day and a half and was feeling the effects of his illness in the first half. In the second half and overtime, Jokic overwhelmed the Pelicans’ frontcourt. He scored 30 of his 46 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, going 10 for 11 from the field, burying all nine free throws and snatching a steal and a block in the process. No player in NBA history had ever logged a line of 46 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks and three steals in a game before. “He’s just different,” Aaron Gordon said after the game.

No. 3: A Legend is Born

When/where: April 7, 2022; Ball Arena

No, we’re not talking about Jokic’s newborn daughter. We’re referring to Headband Joker, who became an instant icon out of necessity, when a first-quarter elbow cut Jokic’s forehead open. Sporting a crimson headband to match his crimson compression shorts, Jokic made NBA history against the Memphis Grizzlies. Late in the fourth quarter, Jokic connected on an easy look inside to become the first player in NBA history to ever reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in one season. The MVP chants boomed as fans, well aware of the situation, roared in adulation. Following the game, Jokic said he planned to give the headband to strength coach Felipe Eichenberger. The two joked about how much money it would fetch on eBay.

No. 2: No Quit

When/where: April 24, 2022; Ball Arena

The Nuggets knew NBA history was not on their side. Facing a 3-0 deficit in the first round against the Warriors, the Nuggets could’ve laid down and headed into the offseason earlier than anyone had wanted. Nikola Jokic could’ve gone home to Sombor, where his family and horses awaited him. Instead, Jokic pummeled Golden State’s frontcourt for 37 points on just 21 shots, laying the foundation for Denver’s Game 4 victory. He battered their undersized forwards and ensured he wouldn’t exit the playoffs following another uncomfortable sweep. If the win was solely symbolic, the Nuggets wouldn’t have given the Warriors everything they could handle in Game 5. Jokic acquitted himself like an MVP, earning the profound respect of defensive mastermind Draymond Green.

No. 1: The Pass

When/where: Jan. 19, 2022; Ball Arena

Naturally, Nikola Jokic’s signature moment of his second consecutive MVP season was a dime. He’d terrorized the Clippers inside and out, racking up 49 points on 25 shots, picking them apart from the lane to the 3-point line. Tired of getting crushed by Jokic’s supreme scoring skill, Los Angeles sent two defenders in his direction with the game tied at 127 and the clock ticking down in overtime. Jokic lobbed a preposterous cross-court heave that landed, softly, in the 3-point shooting pocket of Aaron Gordon, who confidently stepped into his shoot. When Gordon’s 3-pointer swished, Jokic let out a primal scream at halfcourt that embodied one of his favorite sayings: a basket makes one person happy; an assist makes two people happy.

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