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Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets end 47-year championship drought

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right. Let's turn to sports now, where last night, NBA superstar Nikola Jokic put a bow on his career.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A career where he and now his team have defied a ton of odds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: At last, the long wait is over. After 47 years, the Denver Nuggets can finally call themselves NBA champions.

SHAPIRO: In front of a home crowd, Jokic and the Denver Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat to clinch this year's title for the first time in franchise history.

CHANG: Soaking in the jubilation on the court, the ever-playful big man from Serbia was asked how he felt about winning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIKOLA JOKIC: It's good. It's good. The job is done. We can go home now.

CHANG: He scored at double-digit points, rebounds and assists, as did point guard Jamal Murray.

SHAPIRO: Which I'm told is called a triple double?

CHANG: I guess so. Yup. And Jokic was also named NBA Finals MVP. He's now one of the most decorated players in the modern game, and he was also named leaguewide MVP the previous two seasons.

SHAPIRO: All this despite being an athlete who, by his own admission, used to drink three liters of soda a day.

CHANG: Wow.

SHAPIRO: All this despite being picked 41st in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOKIC: I think it's a great journey, 41st pick, but to be honest, that doesn't matter. When you're here, you're a player.

CHANG: Also known as the Joker, Jokic also shares the nickname with tennis star and fellow Serbian Novak Djokovic, who just won the men's French Open on Sunday.

SHAPIRO: When asked how this moment felt, the basketball Joker sounded quite pleased.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOKIC: It's a really good moment to be a Serbian.

SHAPIRO: And there's more good news for Denver fans. Jokic and most of the title-winning squad are expected back next year for another run at the NBA title.

CHANG: When asked about it after the game, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said the next goal after winning a championship is to become a dynasty.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL MALONE: We're not satisfied. We accomplished something this franchise has never done before. But we have a lot of young, talented players in that locker room, and I think we just showed through 16 playoff wins what we're capable of on the biggest stage in the world.

SHAPIRO: A championship parade is scheduled for Thursday.

CHANG: Enjoy it, Denver.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Gus Contreras
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.