When MVP stands for most variable player

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 6/16/21

So, Denver has an NBA Most Valuable Player this year. Our first in the history of the franchise in the NBA, and the first professional MVP for the city in a … while. Anybody remember a guy named …

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When MVP stands for most variable player

Posted

So, Denver has an NBA Most Valuable Player this year. Our first in the history of the franchise in the NBA, and the first professional MVP for the city in a … while.

Anybody remember a guy named Manning?

What’s amazing to me is how different Nikola Jokic looks than any of the recent NBA MVPs. And, no, I’m not talking even a little bit about the color of his skin. What I mean is, if you watch Jokic, he does not come across as, what you would say, an athlete. Well, other than the size—6-foot, 11 inches. Other than that, he plays slow, his vertical jump can be measured in sheets of paper, and he has the physique of a central-casting back yard dad.

Thing is, he’s different. He would rather, I think, make a great pass to get one of his teammates a basket than make the basket himself. I’ve seen him make five or six different moves to get himself free for one shot (as the kids say, “putting his defender in a blender”). Rather than throwing the ball down in a thunderous slam dunk, he tends to float it gently through the air, barely making the net move.

But it works. For him. Nikola Jokic is the NBA MVP precisely *because* he does things differently than the other guys around him. I think it’s obvious to see that the Joker did not learn how to play basketball in America as a kid. You look at all the guys who play little defense, rely on speed and athleticism to create only for themselves, and then jack up long-range shots as the clock is expiring, and you see the pervasive influence of A.A.U. basketball— youth club basketball, whose only purpose is to showcase young talent to get them their one year of college exposure to get them their high draft pick. All without knowing how to play the game (ahem cough cough Michael Porter, Jr., cough cough).

Jokic knows how to play the game, and it’s no coincidence that the player that almost single-handedly eliminated the Joker from the playoffs was a 36-year old “old timer” (Chris Paul) who slayed the Nuggets with a thousand 12-foot jump shots.

If you look at the baseball standings right now, there is another team out there finding ways to win without, perhaps, the top-tier talent and certainly without following the “formula” everybody else uses.

No, I only wish the Rockies were this clever.

Right now, the Chicago White Sox are in first place in their division. And, granted, the Sox pitch extremely well, but they are winning with a different formula. They are the third-highest scoring team in baseball … while being in the bottom third of the league in home runs hit. They are one of only six teams in all of baseball that have a batting average higher than .250 (which, by older standards, is a pathetic team BA), but their team strikeout numbers are in the bottom half of the league. In other words, the Sox pitch well, and they put the ball in play at the plate without necessarily hitting it a mile, and they play good defense (very few unearned runs against). It’s not what everybody else is trying to do: strike people out, only swing for the fences, and don’t care a lot about defense.

And, when the whole world is trying to pump out cookie-cutter versions of everybody else, being different works.

You can do that, too, in the real world. Think about all the people at your job/in your industry that do things exactly the same way. Now, sometimes that’s just because that’s what works; but sometimes it’s because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Thing is, if you do things the same as everybody else, then you better make sure you’re significantly better than everybody else. Otherwise, why should anybody hire you?

Don’t be afraid to be a little different. That’s what makes you stand out.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at michaeljalcorn.net. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

Michael Alcorn, MVP, Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

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