Nikola Jokic continues to build an MVP case by doing things that no center has done since Wilt Chamberlain.
On Tuesday, Jokic collected the 50th triple-double of his career with 37 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to help the Denver Nuggets rout the Bucks 128-97 at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum.
Jokic’s latest milestone put him in rarefied company for big men. He became only the second center ever to reach 50 career triple-doubles, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, joining Chamberlain, who had 78. Jokic is also just the ninth player in history to record 50 triple-doubles, and only Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson did it faster than him, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
“It’s nice, of course,” Jokic said of doing something only Chamberlain has done among centers in the history of the game. “It is something that [for] my legacy to put behind me. It’s cool just to be in that group of guys, especially with one of the best players to ever play the game. Just a nice accomplishment.”
Jokic entered the game averaging career highs in points (27.1), rebounds (11.0), assists (8.5), 3-point shooting (41.1%) and free throw shooting (88.2%) this season.
He has nine triple-doubles this campaign and has missed another six triple-doubles by either one assist or one rebound.
“He’s only 25 years old, which is amazing,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “Nikola has 50 career triple-doubles, but he also has 20 games [in his career] where he missed a triple-double by either one rebound or one assist. It just speaks to his greatness. The guy doesn’t get fatigued; he doesn’t get tired.”
Jokic made 15 of 23 shots to help snap Milwaukee’s five-game winning streak. Besides reaching the triple-doubles milestone, Jokic’s average of 8.5 assists is something no center has done in a season since Chamberlain, who is the only center to have ever led the league in total assists.
Another area in which Jokic is on a personal-best pace is dunks. He dunked three times against the Bucks and has 20 slams on the season. He has never dunked more than 23 times in a season, which happened during 2016-17, his second season in the league.
“He has been a dunking machine as of late,” said Malone, who kidded that Jokic should try to enter this weekend’s All-Star dunk contest. “We joke about it, but it really does speak to his overall conditioning, staying in great shape and being disciplined.
“Most people are emotional eaters, right?” Malone said. “If you have any reason to overeat, it’s this season. It’s been crazy. Can’t leave the hotel, get tested three times a day. But Nikola has laser focus and discipline. He has been just a machine for us. And for him to attack the basket, dunk and hang on the rim as much as he has this year is really fun to watch.”