For all his on-court skills—outside of possibly Joel Embiid, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better all-around big man in the NBA—Nikola Jokic has never been a pillar of physical fitness. Jokic, who copped to being well over his listed weight last season, has apparently spent the quarantine getting in the best shape of his life. No, seriously.
“Joker got a little four pack,” teammate Jamal Murray said of his once-doughy teammate. “It is kind of weird to see him like this where he is a lot more athletic, he is moving a lot better." Murray and Jokic have been hitting the gym early and often during the league’s three-month hiatus in preparation for the third-seeded Nuggets’ postseason run.
“We know we can go win the title,” Murray insisted in a recent Zoom conference with Denver media. “When me and Joker are on, I don't think there is anybody that is going to stop us.” Team president Tim Connelly has been similarly impressed with Jokic’s physical transformation, proclaiming the All-Star center to be “beach ready.”
“Nikola looks unbelievable,” said Connelly, confirming coach Mike Malone's assertion that the 25-year-old has transformed himself into a “lean, mean fighting Serbian machine.” “I’ve never seen him in better shape.”
Jokic, who at his heaviest weighed 292 pounds, looked noticeably slimmer in a viral photo that surfaced earlier this week. A known lover of sweets, the seven-footer has always kept a sense of humor about his dad bod. “That story has been [with me] all my life,” Jokic told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk during last year’s postseason. “Sometimes it is funny for me just because [sometimes what they say] it’s true, and [yet] I am still playing in the NBA.”
While the two-time All-Star’s improved physique will no doubt help the Nuggets as they navigate the Western Conference playoffs, this new, leaner version of Jokic could take some getting used to. The appeal of Jokic and athletes of a similarly robust build (the festively plump Bartolo Colon and barbecue-loving Vince Wilfork both come to mind) is how relatable they are in comparison to the chiseled likes of athletic marvel LeBron James and other impossibly fit physical specimens. The former second-round pick may have lost his love handles—and perhaps some of his comedic charm—but if it leads to a deep playoff run for the Nuggets, you won’t see hoops fans in the Mile High City complaining.