If Nikola Jokic’s triple-double Thursday night against the Bucks were at all normal, he would have reached double-digit assists with a garbage-time pass in the fourth quarter, or pulled down a missed shot as time expired, or made a late-game free throw.
But Jokic’s triple-double was about as abnormal as it gets: The Nuggets big man reached double digits in points, rebounds and assists with 1 minute 54 seconds left in the second quarter, passing the ball to Wilson Chandler for a three-pointer and his 10th assist. At 14:33 of court time, it was the fastest triple-double in NBA history, surpassing Jim Tucker of the Syracuse Nationals, who notched a triple-double in 17 minutes in 1955.
Jokic added his name to all sorts of crazy lists Thursday night, per ESPN Stats & Info. Among NBA players 6 feet 10 or taller, only Wilt Chamberlain had more assists in a game (21 in 1968 and 19 in 1967). Plus, he became just the sixth NBA player to record 30 points, 15, rebounds and 15 assists in a game. The others? Chamberlain, James Harden, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.
Oh, and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo also recorded a triple-double with 36 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. Jokic and Antetokounmpo are just the third opposing players to record 30-point triple-doubles in one NBA game, joining Johnny Kerr and Dave DeBusschere in 1965 and Oscar Robertson and Richie Guerin in 1961. And the Nuggets made 24 three-pointers, one shy of the single-game NBA record set by the Cavs last season (Denver also made 24 three-pointers in a game last season).
The Serbian-born Jokic recorded his first career triple-double last season at Bradley Center in Milwaukee, which has one of the largest Serbian populations in the United States. After Thursday’s game, the Denver Post reports, a sizable contingent of fans waving Serbian flags crowded the Nuggets bench, and Jokic obliged them with selfies.
Jokic was not invited to any of this weekend’s All-Star Game festivities even though he’s averaging 16.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game (again, he’s 6-10). He said he’s not bothered by it and didn’t use the slight as motivation Thursday.
“I just started playing well and making shots,” Jokic said, per the Associated Press. “I didn’t have any extra motivation or anything like that though. I’m just playing the same way I always play. Maybe I was a little more aggressive tonight, but I’m playing the same.”
Nuggets Coach Michael Malone certainly seems to think Jokic belongs among the game’s best.
“Even though you see it every day, it’s kind of like when I was fortunate enough to coach a guy like LeBron [James] or Chris Paul or Steph Curry,” Malone told the Denver Post. “You recognize greatness … some of the plays that he makes and how he makes the right play over and over again and how he makes all his teammates better players, I do admire that. I do recognize that.
“No one in our organization takes it for granted. We feel we have the most dynamic, best facilitator, best playmaking young player in the NBA.
“I’ve been around some great players,” Malone continued. “I’ve never seen anything close to that.”
Jokic also had eight turnovers, falling two shy of a (somewhat dubious) quadruple-double.
Tucker, the man whose record Jokic broke, is hardly a household NBA name: He averaged only 4.1 points per game over his three-year career for the Nationals. But he and Earl Lloyd became the first pair of African-American teammates to win an NBA title in 1955, and now he’s the subject of an upcoming documentary:
Tucker has Alzheimer’s disease and doesn’t remember setting the triple-double record, according to Field Humphrey, the film’s co-creator for Readily Apparent Media. He hopes that the movie will preserve the memory of Tucker’s accomplishment as well as raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease.