The 2020-21 NBA season produced countless inspiring moments. From Golden State’s Steph Curry dominating from outside the arc – he converted on 337 treys – to Boston’s Jayson Tatum scoring 60 points on May 1, the hardwood featured its fair share of outstanding performances. Even Sixers center Joel Embiid finally led Philadelphia to the Eastern Conference’s best regular-season record (49-23), its first No. 1 finish since his arrival.
During this season to remember, another player emerged as a force to be reckoned with: Denver Nuggets sixth-year standout Nikola Jokic (pronounced “yolk-itch”). The 6’ 11” center from Serbia registered his best season ever, averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assist per game. What’s more, he started all 72 regular-season games for the Nugs and led them to 47 wins, their second highest win total since his debut in 2015. (Denver’s 54-28 mark in 2018-19 was set with a full 82-game slate.)
A signature moment for the Serbian big man occurred on April 19 when he tallied 47 points on 20-of-31 shooting to go along with 15 boards and eight dimes versus Memphis. His heroic efforts helped the Nuggets eke out a 139-137 double-overtime victory against the Grizzlies. Throughout the season, Jokic was mentioned in conversations discussing likely MVP candidates and just last week, he was named one of three finalists for the award. Curry and Embiid are the others. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at three of Jokic’s rookie cards, at least ones that are still within reach of many collectors.
2015 Panini Prizm #335 Nikola Jokic
Produced inside Panini’s 2015 Prizm collection, this is considered Jokic’s go-to rookie card. Once again, it comes complete with a host of variations and parallels, but for an obtainable RC of the man who could become just the fifth foreigner to win MVP honors, this is it. Other players from distant lands who have been named league MVP include Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), Steve Nash (Canada), Dirk Nowitzki (Germany) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece).
“Joker’s” rookie card shows the lanky hoopster about to finger-roll the rock for two points. Susceptible to chipping, it’s got plenty of company in the PSA Population Report with 591 PSA Gem-Mint 10 examples and 766 PSA Mint 9 copies recorded. The average Auction Prices Realized (APR) for the two different grades are $1,087.40 and $342.76, respectively. A doable pickup in either grade for the dogged collector.
2015 Panini Clear Vision #99 Nikola Jokic
“Clear Vision” is a great name for a card showing a guy sizing up his next jump shot. Here we have the king-sized marksman perfectly centered putting up a what looks to be an easy jumper off his left foot. The Clear Vision delivery harkens back to some of the acetate cards manufactured by companies in the early ‘90s. Average APR numbers for this largely under-represented specimen in PSA’s Population Report come in at $500 in PSA Gem-Mint 10 condition and $140 in PSA Mint 9. Much more affordable options for the budget-conscious collector.
2015 Panini Donruss #215 Nikola Jokic
This “Rated Rookie” Panini Donruss card of Denver’s big man is one of my favorites because it shows this year’s aspiring NBA MVP driving against the league’s two-time reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo. With its largely white borders, perfect centering could be an issue, but the outstanding action photography and clean design are always appreciated by collectors. The average APRs for this card in PSA’s Population Report fetch $487.66 in PSA Gem-Mint 10 and $124.50 in PSA Mint 9.
Who do you think will win MVP honors? Will it be Steph, the perennial contender in Oakland/San Fran; Embiid, the driving force in Philly; or the blossoming big man in the Mile High City? We will all know soon enough.