Nikola Jokic explains his admiration for Dirk Nowitzki: “He didn’t abandon the team”

DALLAS – When Nikola Jokic was asked his favorite memories of Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki on Monday night, he unwittingly gave Denver’s franchise more comfort than anyone asked for.

While gushing over Nowitzki, who Jokic described as “probably the best European scorer,” the Nuggets’ franchise centerpiece seemingly reinforced his commitment to the only team he’s ever known.

“He’s one of the few guys that was playing for one team their whole life, their whole career,” Jokic said. “He won the title, he won a ring. I really, really admire him. Just because of that. Because he didn’t quit, he didn’t abandon the team. I really admire that.”

Jokic can be a free agent after the 2022-23 season, but by winning the MVP last season, he’s also eligible to sign a five-year supermax deal this summer valued at $254 million.

Not that Jokic has ever given them any reason to believe he’d leave, but his comments on Nowitzki should bolster their confidence that the best player the franchise has ever known is long for Denver.

When answering the question following Denver’s 103-89 loss to the Mavs, though, Jokic brought up the same iconic images everyone associates with Nowitzki: his fadeaway, and his championship, in 2011, over Miami.

“Basketball-wise he was really, really … like a killer,” Jokic said. “He had that instinct. He could give you 40, 50. He was unstoppable.”

As much as he admires him, Jokic said he didn’t study the Mavericks’ legend, acknowledging their games were completely different.

“He’s unique, he’s not something that you can copy,” Jokic said.

But the parallels, from their background to their humble persona, are there.

In addition to Nowitzki, Jokic has long-admired Tim Duncan, who only knew one franchise in his Hall of Fame career as well. Jokic has said before that he’d like to be the Duncan of Denver.

Monday’s comments should only reinforce that claim.

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