25 August, 2023
10 September
15 Nikola Jokic (SRB), 15 Nikola Jokic (SRB)
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Nikola Jokic: ''I'll do my best to win a medal''

DENVER (USA) - Nikola Jokic's bid for national team glory was dashed when Serbia crashed out of FIBA EuroBasket 2022 in the Round of 16, yet no one should look past him and his country at FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.

At 27 and already viewed as one of Europe's greatest ever players thanks to MVP honors in the last two NBA seasons with Denver, the biggest and most talented Nugget will make Serbia one of the title favorites in the 32-team event which is to be staged in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.

"If I'm there (WC 2023), I'll do my best to win a medal," he said to Arena Sport. "Last summer, I came in a good shape, I was practicing all summer.

"I was more ready just because of the clear motive we had on  the EuroBasket. We had a great connection as a team. Even when we lost against Italy, I said that I enjoyed playing with those guys, it was a pleasure sharing the locker room with them. Great group of people. 

"I think that we were the best team at the EuroBasket. Obviously, the results say that I was wrong, but that was my personal feeling."

Jokic's performances in World Cup qualifiers wins over Greece and Turkey in late August showed his importance to the Serbia cause.

In Serbia's 100-94 overtime triumph against Greece, the 'Joker' had 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

At Turkey a few days later, Jokic had 24 points and 10 rebounds in a 79-72 Serbia win.

In four of the team's six EuroBasket games, he registered double-doubles in points and rebounds.

Serbia sure didn't lose to Italy in the Round of 16 because of a sub-par Jokic. He gave his team a chance to win with 32 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.

But Italy, whose coach Gianmarco Pozzecco was ejected after the team picked up a bench technical midway through the third quarter, prevailed 94-86.

Pozzecco's exit galvanized Italy, who were led by Marco Spissu's 22-point performance. Spissu drilled six three-pointers.

The result was a big disappointment for Serbia and Jokic.

That setback is now history. Jokic will have as much respect as any player at the World Cup.

While averaging 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game in the 2021-22 NBA season, he became the only player in NBA history to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single campaign!

His Denver teammates consider him the top player in the world. In March, when the MVP race was hot, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray raved about Jokic.

He said to Complex: "He dominates the game without jumping out the gym, without moving the fastest, and he's just picking defenses apart—he's being double-teamed every possession—and still averaging a triple-double without his two main scorers out there on the court...

"He's the Most Valuable Player every time he steps on the court."


One of the many compliments paid to Jokic last year was by his national team coach, Serbia legend Svetislav Pesic.

Pesic heaped praise on both his center, and Slovenia's Luka Doncic, another of the NBA's biggest stars.

"I think they've changed the NBA with their creativity, their vision of basketball," Pesic said. "They play a different basketball than most Americans or NBA players."

Czech Republic center Jan Vesely spoke about Jokic last summer before the two squared off at the EuroBasket.

"The way he plays is amazing," Vesely said.

At the EuroBasket, only Giannis Antetokounmpo (32.7) of Greece had a better overall per game efficiency rating than Jokic (31.7), who had averaged 21.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per contest.

The European Qualifier win over Greece is a game that Jokic savored.

"That was my first game in a national team jersey after a long time," Jokic said. "I even opened the game badly, with a couple of misses.

"But that game, against Giannis, it was a pleasure playing in front of our fans."

The magnitude of the game wasn't lost on anyone.

"Thanks to that game, our country, as well as European basketball, gained importance (publicity)," Jokic said. "It was a success for everyone. We even had journalists from Denver at that game."

If Jokic didn't get to the podium as he'd craved, he still got a buzz playing for his country again.

"It's a different feeling when you play for the national team," he said. "You can't even compare it."