Many professional athletes find their respective sports to be the most important element of their lives, giving far less thought to other aspects. As Tom Brady once observed, his obsession over football led to a lot of unhealthy “imbalances” in his personal life.
Athletes can lose sight of anything outside the sphere of their sport. But don’t count Nikola Jokic as one of those people.
The Denver Nuggets all-world center has spearheaded his franchise’s first appearance in the NBA Finals, so you could forgive him for getting wrapped up in the moment and making basketball his number one focus. But after a team practice on Saturday, Jokic affirmed that his family is his number one priority, even as he chases his long-desired NBA championship. When asked if being a dad helps him become a better basketball player, he used part of his answer to share how much his wife and young daughter mean to him.
"Nah, this cannot help you."— NBA (@NBA) May 27, 2023
Jokic with a straightforward answer to whether becoming a father comes with skills that translate to basketball 😅#NBAFinals presented by @YouTubeTV ⤵
📅 Game 1: Thursday, 6/1, 8:30pm/et on ABC pic.twitter.com/2AwLQ9Ed1s
“I knew that even before that is basketball is not the main thing in my life,” Jokic explained. “And probably never going to be. Because, I like it, because I have something more at home that is more important than basketball.”
He’s also not ashamed to publicly show affection to his family. After Game 2 of a second round series against the Phoenix Suns, he made eye contact with his wife and daughter, the latter of who pointed to her ring finger to signify that the time had come for Jokic to get his first ring (Jokic returned the gesture with a smile on his face).
Nikola Jokic and his daughter shared a moment after Game 2, pointing to their ring finger ❤️ 💍 pic.twitter.com/XQWJrDHtuV— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 2, 2023
Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla holds a similar perspective about the role of basketball in his life. Last night, his squad got eliminated by the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But before he got to that point in the series, his side was down three games to none before finally winning Game 4.
At a press conference before Game 5, a reporter asked Mazzulla what he was doing to make sure that he didn’t let outside noise or the team’s situation affect his mindset.
His answer left the room speechless.
“I met three girls under the age of 21 who have terminal cancer. And I thought I was helping them, but they were helping me…Watching a girl that's dying, smiling, that's what it's really all about. Having that faith.”— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) May 25, 2023
- Joe Mazzulla on his mentality
"The other thing is, you always hear people give glory to God and say thank you when they’re holding a trophy," Mazzulla said. "But you never really hear it in times like this. And so for me, it’s an opportunity to just sit right where I’m at and just be faithful. That’s what it’s about."
While Boston would end up one win short of becoming the first team in NBA history to win a series after being down 3-0, it’s safe to assume that losing this series will not destroy Mazzulla’s psyche or crush his faith.
Every now and then, we need reminders that while sports are great, there are so many elements of our lives that should require more of our attention. To hear these guys provide those reminders is both eye-opening and refreshing.