by Alex Poletti
Photo by Getty
A successful trial run in Colorado has prompted other states to consider legalizing Nikola Jokic for professional use in NBA games, seeing the positive economic and social impact it has had on the citizens of Denver over the past few years.
“It took a long time for people to warm up to the idea of using Nikola Jokic publicly,” Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone says. “It was very stigmatized. Even if people acknowledged its helpful qualities on the court, they didn’t want to see him in the streets. Now, everyone loves Jokic. We have pictures of him on billboards all over the city. It’s been a very beneficial project.”
The Nuggets’ record has improved every year since starting to use Nikola Jokic, and the team now holds the second best record in the Western Conference. Despite the slow start in 2015, when Jokic was first drafted, the positive impact of the center has forced other teams put aside their biases and consider legalization.
“People thought it would corrupt the league, making it an amoral enterprise,” Malone continues. “But the truth is that people have been using Nikola Jokic forever, or at least a product like him. In Serbia, Nikola Jokic is everywhere, and that’s a tourist attraction now. They’re turning Nikola Jokic into a business venture, and that’s nothing but a smart marketing move.”
Denver isn’t alone in its push for legalization. Many states have already adopted policies to decriminalize Nikola Jokic in some manner.
“We legalized Nikola Jokic about three years ago for recreational purposes,” Kings coach Luke Walton says. “Fans are free to enjoy Jokic in that capacity, and it’s been wholly beneficial thus far. Because of Jokic’s popularity, we’ve also started to phase in Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica. While they certainly aren’t as strong as Jokic, they get the job done in a pinch.”
The legalization efforts aren’t without their critics, however, as many wonder what the long-term effects of having large doses of Nikola Jokic may be.
“We just don’t know how Jokic affects a fan’s mind and body over the course of several years,” Pelicans owner Gayle Benson says. “What happens when we take Jokic out of their system? Will they still be able to function? I fear they are developing a dependence on him, and that’s never healthy.”
Jokic’s popularity may be insurmountable for anti-Jokic lobbyists, as fans may be willing to find explore backchannels to experience the star big man.
“I don’t think you can do anything about it at this point,” league commissioner Adam Silver weighs in. “It’s such a staple in our society now. Even if we were to cut Nikola Jokic from the league, fans would find some way to find it, even if it meant going to a sketchy G-League stadium to get it. At this point, I think we can regulate Jokic better at the NBA level.”