Jokić politely declined The Athletic’s request recently to speak more in-depth regarding his MVP award and his relationship with Serbia. “For the people in Serbia, they also need the national team games,” Divac, a Basketball Hall of Famer, told The Athletic. “Obviously, it was kind of bad timing for him after the season where he played every game and averaged almost 40 minutes, being tired, being in the playoffs, he just couldn’t make it for the national team. And obviously, they lost in Olympic qualifications. “So he took a little bit of a hit from that. But I support him big time because people don’t understand NBA basketball. It’s rough. It would be very difficult on his body to continue to play in the summer.”
When asked at the Nuggets’ media day in late September if he knew Serbians were disappointed with him for not playing, Jokić, sitting in front of a Nuggets backdrop, paused with a confused look and asked: “Where (was I) not playing?” “The Olympics,” the reporter responded. “We didn’t play (in the) Olympics, brother,” Jokić said. “We didn’t qualify.” “In the preliminary ones,” the reporter said, clarifying the distinction. “Ah, yeah,” Jokić said. “I mean, I made a decision. If it’s good, if it’s bad, I’m going to stick to it. So I wouldn’t change it if I could play again because I made a decision.”
Jokić was criticized in the Serbian media and online, ranging from expletive-laden tweets, to nasty memes on Facebook groups, to complex Reddit threads. One Serbian tabloid went as far as to label Jokić a “national traitor” on its cover, though the corresponding article ironically criticized the flak Jokić received despite its clickbait headline. Still, the shocking rhetoric — particularly the word “traitor” — was a direct response to the Serbian zeitgeist’s reaction to Jokić.
During the height of the backlash, Jokić’s father, Branislav, shared with the Serbian press a lesser-known reason his son was skipping the Olympic qualifiers: Nikola and his wife, Natalija, were expecting their first child in the latter portion of the summer. The couple returned to Denver earlier than usual because of the pregnancy and the COVID-19 pandemic. Their daughter, Ognjena, was born in late September.
“As a player, I never blame anybody for not playing in it,” Bogdanović told The Athletic. “I understand the situation he’s in because we’re under a lot of pressure to play for our country. It’s his decision. He has his reasons for why he didn’t play, but he knows we always want him to play and the country wants him to play. He’s that type of player. “… Sometimes, you don’t know how someone feels about that kind of pressure because you don’t know where his brain is at and where his mental health is at and where’s his physical health at. Everyone has their own different circumstances.
Duvalier Johnson: Nikola Jokic on not playing in the Olympics:”I made a decision. If it’s good or bad then I’m going to stick to it.” Said that he would make the same decision again pic.twitter.com/m0wWEgaKan