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Jason Whitlock: Why Nikola Jokic & Foreign-Born Players Are Bad For the NBA

Jason Whitlock: “Nikola Jokic's NBA Finals MVP and Championship hit different, meaning they do not feel nearly as important as his predecessors’ crowning achievements. That's not intended as a knock on the Serbian superstar who secured his first title Monday night with a victory over the Miami Heat, it's a knock on the NBA and Nike's 30-year global mission. Globalism diminishes and dilutes everything it touches. Following the Denver Nuggets’ 94-89 victory, Jokic and his teammates had the most subdued championship celebration perhaps in the history of American sports. When asked by ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters how it felt to be champion of the NBA, listen to the Jokic's reply [‘It’s good, it’s good. The job is done now and we can go home.’] That's not quite Kevin Garnett shouting ‘ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE!’ Inside the Nuggets locker room there were no iconic moments of Jokic sobbing and hugging the Larry O'Brien Trophy with his dad comforting him. That's what Michael Jordan did in 1991 after winning his first title. In the moments after winning, Jokic spent more time hunting down Heat players to acknowledge and console, than reveling in what his dominance created. Again, I'm not knocking Nikola Jokic, he strikes me as humble, well-intentioned, and rational. He also strikes me as someone well aware that the NBA isn't all that important. That's not good for American basketball. Passion permits fanaticism and fanaticism drives interest in the game. Despite the best efforts of ESPN and Fox Sports 1 debate shows the NBA is a lot less interesting than it used to be. Globalism is partially to blame. The NBA’s best players: Jokic, Giannis, Embiid, Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander— they weren't born in the States. They didn't spend their childhoods following, thinking about, and learning the unique histories of NBA franchises. Embiid and Gilgeous-Alexander each had a tiny cup of coffee in American college basketball. The foreigners do not revere the players who made the NBA great or the league's history the way LeBron James and Steph Curry do. They can’t, nor should they be expected to. The lack of reverence leads to a lack of passion. For Nikola Jokic, the NBA is a fun high-paying job. It allows him to take care of his family, it's a great 9-5, it's not how he defines his journey as a man. He couldn't care less what Kendrick Perkins thinks of him or his back-to-back MVP Trophies. This is healthy for Jokic, it's bad for the NBA. It's an unintended consequence of the league's pursuit of global dominance. In the aftermath of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird making the NBA relevant to American sports fans, then-commissioner David Stern, at the behest of Nike founder Phil Knight, embarked on a journey to make The Association a global Force. The real purpose of the 1992 Dream Team was to make the world pay attention to Michael Jordan in the league he dominated. A decade after the Dream Team, Stern and the NBA negotiated a deal with the Chinese Communist Party to make Yao Ming the number one pick of the 2002 NBA Draft. Making Ming an NBA star keyed Stern's strategy of one day landing a television contract from the CCP that would dwarf all the combined TV rights deals of the NFL. Globalism was going to make the NBA, and more importantly Nike, more powerful and popular than the NFL. Starting with Tim Duncan, who was born and reared in the Virgin Islands, 10 of the last 22 NBA MVPs were born outside the United States. Giannis, Jokic, and Embiid have won the last five MVP titles. The NBA has been globalized. It's not as interesting, it's not as passionate, as the kids say the league ‘hits different.’ Professional sports are just another TV show no different from The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones. A compelling narrative arc mixed with great character development determines the popularity of a TV show. Tony Soprano's complicated relationship with his mother and wife made The Sopranos must-see TV. We knew Tony's backstory, we could relate to Tony's backstory, he captured our imagination. Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James captured our imagination. They were great American narrative arcs. We will never relate to Jokic, Luka, and Giannis in the same way. They're great players, great people, but they're not as relatable and they don't care about American traditions and history the way we do. Jokic wants to go home [when he initially said he wanted to skip the Nuggets’ championship parade], I don't blame him. Being a global citizen is overrated.” (Full Segment Above)

Watch Jason Whitlock of ‘Fearless’ explain why he thinks Nikola Jokic and foreign-born stars the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, and Joel Embiid are bad business for the NBA.

Check out the segment above on the heels of Jokic’s first NBA Finals championship, with Whitlock detailing how ‘globalism’ has sterilized the intrigue of NBA basketball and made the players less relatable as they’ve ever been to American sports fans.

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