Nikola Jokic might have had a ‘little bit of trouble’ in more physical, old-school eras of NBA, former player says

Nikola Jokic may have looked nigh-unstoppable in the 2023 NBA Finals, leading to the Denver Nuggets to a championship and securing a NBA Finals MVP award in the process, but former player Royce White believes that if this were back in the more physically-oriented NBA of the ’80s, ’90s and even 2000s, that we may have seen a different result — and a different type of player in Nikola Jokic at that.

“He would have a little bit of trouble, because his body… He isn’t built well… He doesn’t have an athletic body,” White, who is now a mental health advocate, said of Jokic being paired up against the likes of past defensive giants like Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O’Neal on the latest episode of The Jason Whitlock podcast.

“My point is that Jokic, if the game was as physical as it once was, and he had to go against the long list of very, very good big men and that constant bumping for 80 to 90 games a season and then a playoffs… I don’t know if he would motor to do so,” White added.

Nikola Jokic/NBA YouTube

Jokic is such a dominant figure in today’s NBA thanks to his incredible court vision, deceptive agility, and insane shooting ability, he also is a consistent threat due to his passing ability as well. Notwithstanding, White believes that these factors may have been diminished in past eras of the NBA due to the grueling schedule and workload in addition to its physicality.

“You are also talking about the era where guys weren’t getting rested. You played all the games, you played through injuries, you didn’t rest for three games because I just am. I’m saying that he might not have been as productive” White added.

Do you think Nikola Jokic might have had a ‘little bit of trouble’ in the more physical, old-school eras of the NBA, like Royce White seems to think? Or would his unique skills and basketball IQ, especially for a big man, have set him apart in any era of the NBA? Let us know in the comments.

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