Why Is Nikola Jokić Called "Joker" in the NBA? The Denver Nuggets Star's Nickname Explained

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author
By

Apr. 25 2022, Published 5:58 p.m. ET

As a veritable NBA icon, Nikola "the Joker" Jokić is one of the most decorated players in the business. Since his NBA draft in 2014, Jokić has been a rising star as part of the Denver Nuggets. His many highlights include being the NBA's Most Valuable Player of 2021, an NBA All-Star (four times), and Serbian Basketball Player of the Year (twice) in his home country.

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As a center player for the Nuggets, Jokić is currently competing with his team in the NBA 2022 Playoffs. Despite Jokić's strong stats and performance, the Nuggets are in a tough spot. As of April 25, they trail behind the Golden State Warriors in their series of seven. With only three games left in their series, it's down to the wire for the Nuggets to remain in the Playoffs. It's no laughing matter for the Joker as he is raring to pull out all the stops to keep the Nuggets in the running.

When it comes to his career and his accolades, Jokić is no joke. But then why is he called the Joker? Let's break down the name.

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Why is Nikola Jokić called "the Joker" in the NBA?

When a sports player reaches a certain level of fame, a nickname is all but inevitable for their careers. Shaquille O'Neal became Shaq. Charles Barkley was known as the Round Mount of Rebound in his heyday. In baseball history, Joe DiMaggio was known as the Yankee Clipper. Then there's Nikola "The Joker" Jokić for the Denver Nuggets. The name has certainly stuck with him as he continues making basketball history. So where did his nickname come from? The answer is simpler than you think.

According to Bleacher Report, Jokić earned the nickname from his former Nuggets teammate, Mike Miller. Reportedly, Mike had trouble saying his last name, which is pronounced "yo-kitch." A simple literal phonetic pronunciation of his last name gave birth to the moniker "the Joker."

The name has certainly stuck throughout his illustrious career. A Serbian men's basketball club in Serbia even renamed itself in 2017 after Jokić's nickname. Once "KK SO Koš," the club is now known as "KK Joker."

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Now, we know what you're thinking, and no -— the nickname was not given after Nikola Jokić fell into a vat of boiling acid and became one of Gotham City's greatest criminals. However, a nickname like "the Joker" has unavoidably linked the NBA star to the popular villain from DC Comics. Plenty of fan art of Jokić depicts him as several iterations of the Joker. These include Jokić as the Dark Knight Joker, Joaquin Phoenix's version, and even as an NBA player repping Gotham City.

Luckily, Jokić isn't nearly as sinister in real life. Bleacher Report writes that Jokić is Serbia's second-most famous athlete, right before tennis player Novak Djokovic. He is beloved by his hometown and even faces some light teasing from his two older brothers, Nemanja and Strahinja.

While he's known as the Joker to basketball fans, he's apparently still the good-spirited butt of the joke with his family.

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