Social media has become an important tool for modern athletes for a variety of reasons. Platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have allowed them to leverage huge followings and increase the visibility and strength of their own personal brand, as well as maximize sponsorship opportunities.
In turn, this can be leveraged to earn more money on top of the sizable salaries that many athletes receive, especially in the NBA. However, these rules don’t seem to apply to Serbian superstar Nikola Jokic, who recently led the Denver Nuggets to their first championship.
Jokic, who is currently regarded as the best player in basketball, has achieved a significant amount in his eight seasons in the NBA. In this time, he has won two MVPs, a Finals MVP, and has been selected to five All-NBA teams, including three first-team selections.
He also holds several records regarding league triple-doubles, where he is already in the historical top-10, as well as the leading European and center in this regard. He also holds the record for the fastest triple-double in league history, in 14 minutes and 33 seconds.
Jokic has amassed an incredibly impressive CV that is only likely to keep getting better with this current core at the Nuggets. However, the Serbian is an anomaly amongst modern athletes, in that he seems to have a complete aversion to social media, and the media in general.
When asked about his complete lack of social media presence, Jokic responded that he thought it was a waste of time, in contrast to many of his contemporaries.
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While LeBron James is considered an exception in terms of his longevity and status, other players like Kevin Durant and Steph Curry have amassed huge followings on their platforms, which allows them access to more lucrative sponsorship opportunities. Like Jokic, both individuals have been heralded as being among the best players in the league at their peak.
The 28-year-old’s demeanor and personality have drawn comparisons to San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan, who many described as boring due to his focus on the sport and lack of marketing off it.
While Duncan’s achievements on the court were spectacular and is regularly regarded alongside Kobe Bryant as the best players of their generation, Bryant and several others were thought of as more commercially viable due to their personalities and presence.
Duncan’s playstyle was also thought to be very mechanical and robotic, and lacking any of the flash and flair of his contemporaries.
However, throughout his career, Duncan got the better of many of his opponents but still was never considered as inherently marketable as they were. Dynamic players with flair were always seen as more appealing than he was.
A similar trend has emerged in this current crop where other European stars including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic receive far more attention off the court, despite Jokic having a list of accomplishments that is at least on a par with Antetokounmpo, who has been frequently regarded as the best player in the NBA in recent years.
This has also been reflected in recent media coverage for the league, where other stars including Joel Embiid have received more attention than Jokic.
In a hotly contested MVP race between the pair, Embiid gave frequent interviews about the race arguing his corner, while Jokic stayed relatively silent on the matter and began to receive significant criticism from sections of the media for his defensive play.
Embiid eventually won the award before his team, the Philadelphia 76ers, exited in the second round of the playoffs against the Bolton Celtics. Meanwhile, Jokic led his team to the promised land, prompting many sections of the media to finally begin praising him.
It’s long been suspected that many NBA media members don’t watch Jokic frequently due to their sudden recent praise for him, as well as often promoting other players such as Embiid and Antetokounmpo over him on shows that feature on ESPN.
Denver is not one of the NBA’s bigger markets and it’s unlikely that many people outside Nuggets fans or media members who cover the team watch them regularly. This has led to a narrative that Jokic is bizarrely underrated by many basketball watchers, despite the absurd success he has achieved thus far in his career.
In terms of his playstyle, Jokic is already considered a unicorn due to his huge physicality combined with an incredible talent for passing, something that is rare for his position. The unicorn tag can also apply off the court, as he sometimes appears unbothered by his own success.
His personality was reflected through a social media video that Nike posted shortly after the Nuggets’ win, which poked fun at but also celebrated Jokic’s straightforward personality and supreme basketball ability.
In a landscape where other athletes are consistently trying their utmost to be noticed and recognized, Jokic exists as someone who would much rather just fade into the background and not be noticed, which is increasingly rare especially given his supreme ability with the basketball.
While many basketball fans will always rate Jokic, more casual fans will never put him at the top of the tree, evoking similar feelings to Duncan, and the massive success he achieved as a player, but the relatively little attention he got off the court.
It’s inevitable that Jokic will miss out on sponsorship opportunities because of his stance, but he also seems largely unbothered by this.
However, there is an opportunity for other companies to do what Nike did and get involved with marketing Jokic in a way that pays tribute to his unique personality.
If any do is another question, given Jokic is unlikely to ever see it or pay any attention.
Image: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images