Nuggets HC Reveals How Heavy-Hearted Nikola Jokic Coped With Dejan Milojevic’s Tragic Demise After Masterclass vs Celtics

Published 01/19/2024, 11:05 PM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

In the post-game presser of the Nuggets’ win over the Celtics, Coach Malone shared how much Nikola Jokić was affected by Dejan’s death. Fellow Serbian native and his coach in the ABL, Milojevic has had a profound impact on Jokic. So, to hear the news of his passing away at the age of 46 was a real blow to Denver’s superstar.

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As reported by Jake Shapiro on X, Malone said that the past few days have been rough on Jokic. And they were doing everything to try to keep his spirits up. When he asked Nikola to go and play his best in honor of Deki’s memory, he wasn’t sure of the outcome. But tonight’s performance just proves once again why he is “special“.

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The Nuggets were just coming off a loss against the 76ers and their next foe was the East’s top-seeded Celtics. To add to the pressure, Boston stands unbeaten with a flawless home record. Not anymore, of course. The combination of grief from Dejan’s passing and the defeat in a Philly game they easily could have won got the Nuggets’ big man going.

The closely contested win tonight also had other good news. Nikola Jokić tied with NBA legend, Michael Jordan in the 27th position for the number of games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds. The Celtics vs Nuggets game on Friday was his 92nd game with such a stat.

For all the achievements he is amassing now, Jokic has Dejan Milojević to thank for.

Nikola Jokić and his “Deki”

After Dejan’s sudden demise was made known to the world, Steve Kerr reached out to Michael Malone to pass along a message to Jokić. Talking to reporters on Thursday, Malone said that Deki, as Nikola fondly calls Dejan, wanted him to know just how proud he was of the player he has become. He did not forget to add how much he loves him, either.

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Milojević first met Jokic as a 17-year-old in 2012. He had taken up coaching duties on the Serbian team, Mega Basket, three years after retiring as a player. Noticing how uncommonly gifted Nikola was, Dejan had advised him to focus on staying at the top of his shape, always. After spending three years under the Serbian Barkley, the young Serbian moved to the NBA. The rest is history.
By now, Milojević’s legacy, which extends outside the Warriors and the NBA, has become quite familiar to all of us. He was a buddy first and a coach second. And the number of lives he has touched throughout his career is many. But Nikola Jokić will always stand out, it seems.

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Written by:

Geisha Pulimoottil Don

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