Comparison: Is Nikola Jokic a bigger, modern day Larry Bird?

Even when we know it’s unfair and inaccurate to compare players from different generations, We NBA fans love comparing contemporary players to players from the past. It’s the easiest way to understand a player’s skill set and contributions.

When watching Jokic play, announcers, analysts and the media tend to bring up big men like Bill Walton and Arvydas Sabonis. That’s an easy comparison — both Sabonis and Walton are great passing white centers.

Maybe let’s take a gamble with our comparisons (with this genting promo code, of course) and think outside the box. In the latest episode of ESPN’s NBA show The Jump, Paul Pierce compared the 7-foot center Nikola Jokic to a player that I haven’t heard him being compared to yet. The former Boston all-star Pierce went a different direction when he compared the Denver Nuggets all-star to another great Boston Celtics legend.

“The one comparison people do not bring up is he reminds me a lot of Larry Bird.” Pierce told co-hosts Rachel Nichols and Jackie McMullen “Just how slow and methodical but he’s just so precise in everything he does. His passing his dribbling, the way he scores the ball. I mean he’s not the scorer Larry was, but (Jokic) does everything well.”

Comparing any player to one of the greatest players to ever play the game usually sends the discussion down one of two paths. The first is the measured “That’s unfair to (current player)?” and the second is the offended “You can’t compare him to (NBA legend)!”

The Modern Day Larry Bird?

Now I don’t always agree with Pierce’s commentary, but as he discussed his reasoning on the show, they played several highlights of Jokic shooting, reading the defense and passing the ball and to be honest, I could see the comparison quite clearly at that point.

There are a lot of similarities between Bird and Jokic. They’re both superb passers and both seem to play in their own world. Another way of saying that is that Bird and Jokic both play at a different speed than every other player on the court. Neither player ever seems to be in a rush. And the speed in which both Bird and Jokic move at allow them to better read the defense and make their spectacular passes. No doubt that Bird and Jokic are two of the best front court passing players in the history of the game.

Pierce was also on point about Jokic not having as much of a scoring mentality as Bird did, but the big Serbian center’s ability to fill the stat sheet certainly resembles prime Larry Legend in the post season. Through eight games in the playoffs, Jokic has been completely unstoppable with game averages of 24.9 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. That’s very Larry Legend like if we may say so.

A couple other resemblances between the two involve their shooting styles. Both Jokic’s and Bird’s jump shots involve cocking it behind their heads where the vast majority of their shot mechanics happen on the ground.

Is Nikola Jokic an exact replica of Larry Bird? Absolutely not. If we were to spend the next hour continuing this article, we could easily come up with just as many differences as we did similarities.  But we already know that they’re different, we’re just trying to put Jokic in a category so we can better understand his game in the context of NBA history.

Is that so wrong?

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