Nikola Jokic has crossed a statistical threshold not even Wilt Chamberlain has touched.
With a fourth-quarter basket over a double-team in Friday’s win over Memphis, Nikola Jokic became the first player in NBA history to accumulate at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season.
The crowd recognized the achievement with a standing ovation chants of “M-V-P” for the league’s reigning Kia Most Valuable Player, who accomplished the statistical feat despite taking a blow to the head earlier in the game that drew blood and saw him don a headband.
👏 Nikola Jokic receives a standing ovation in Denver after becoming the first player in NBA History with 2K points, 1K rebounds, and 500 assists in a season. pic.twitter.com/ef8YrkkMDL
— NBA (@NBA) April 8, 2022
“Dude is really great at basketball,” teammate Bones Hyland said.
Chamberlain came up short by eight points of that specific combination in the 1967-68 season, the year he led the league in assists. He won the league’s MVP award that season, an honor Jokic is jostling to earn for the second straight season despite impressive campaigns from Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.
“I mean, it’s cool,” Jokic said afterwards. “I like it. Hopefully I can do it a couple of more times.”
Jokic’s late-season surge also saw him become the first player since Chamberlain to register at least 35 points and 12 rebounds in five straight games since Chamberlain.
His big night came after taking an inadvertent elbow from Jaren Jackson Jr. to the right forehead and temple that drew blood in the opening minute.
After having to retreat to the bench twice to stop the bleeding, Jokic donned a red headband for the remainder of the game as he helped the Nuggets (48-33) overcome a shaky start to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Grizzlies.
Jokic was hit in the head on the Grizzlies’ first bucket, a drive by Jackson Jr., and retreated to the bench for treatment. He wasn’t back on the court for long before returning to the sideline for more treatment and a red headband.
“My first thought was Steve Nash in that playoff series and they couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “And I’m saying, ‘Of all games, Nikola gets a very non-malicious elbow, an inadvertent elbow to the head and he’s bleeding.’
“I’m saying, ’Not tonight.”
Malone said he implored his trainers to do whatever they could to staunch the flow of blood.
“Like, get a staple gun out here,” Malone said. “And it finally stopped and Nikola put on another MVP performance.”
Despite long-term injuries to supporting teammates Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (back), Jokic has lifted Jokic to a guaranteed playoff spot for a fourth straight season. The Nuggets have won at least one postseason round in each the previous three years.
“The MVP isn’t even a competition,” Malone said. “There’s other great players. I’m not saying they’re not great players. But what Nikola Jokic has done this year — with this team — everything we’ve had to go through, is just incredible. He was good last year and he’s even better this year.”
The Nuggets can still win the Northwest Division with a victory Sunday night against the Lakers and two losses by the Utah Jazz (48-32), who finish up against Phoenix and Portland.
Jokic agreed he’s had a better season than last year but he said there’s 20 superstars in this league and he’s not himself lobbying for another MVP award.
“If that’s enough, it’s enough,” he said. “It not, you cannot control that.”
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) April 8, 2022
Jokic got a game ball from the Nuggets as a keepsake of his historic night but he joked the trainers would probably sell his blood-soaked headband on eBay.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.