Nikola Jokić Reveals How Tristian Thompson & Other Centers Inspired His Game

For decades, the center in basketball played inside the paint, blocked shots and ruled the post. 

Think Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Patrick Ewing.

But if you like a little flair in your game, then think Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook and Hakeem Olajuwon’s dream shake. 

Today’s NBA center? They play point guard, they have the crossover dribble, space the floor and shoot 3-pointers.

Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokić is one of today’s prototype at the center position.

While the 6’11 center is an excellent rebounder and rim protector, he doubles as a skilled passer who runs the offense from the high post. 

Averaging 30.8 points, 13.1 rebounds and 9.2 assists during the 2023 NBA Playoffs, some have compared The Joker’s ability at center to Rik Smits and Arvydas Sabonis. 

The comparison game in hoops a major key. However, Jokic wasn’t even alive when Sabonis was drafted in 1986.

Born in 1995, Jokic was around five years old by the time Smits’ Indiana Pacers played the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals. 

Million Dollar Question: Did Jokić watch their games on Youtube? 

“Not that much,” Jokić tells me. 

“But when I got into the NBA I was watching Tristian Thompson, watching LaMarcus Aldridge, watching Boris Diaw… those types of guys that can do a little bit of everything on the floor.” 

A one time All-Star, Smits played all 12 years of his career with the Pacers and averaged 14.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

An incredible passer, Sabonis was fantastic at hitting cutters and three-point shooters out of the post, however, Jokić has more of a superior dribbling ability than Sabonis did. 

Nonetheless, Sabonis’ son, Sacramento Kings All-Star Domantas Sabonis sees the similarities between his dad, The Joker and Smits. 

“Oh yeah,” he told me. 

“They definitely have similarities in their games but you know, they’re in two different eras, two completely different players, but I definitely see what they’re saying — those are two amazing guys.” 

In an era of position-less basketball that is today’s NBA, Jokic is a swiss army knife on the court by dominating the post in a league where the 3-point shot is king, his versatility is king



Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson is the host of the Scoop B Radio Podcast. A senior writer at Basketball Society, he’s had stops as a staff writer at The Source Magazine, as a columnist and podcast host at CBS and as an editor at RESPECT. Magazine. In his downtime, he enjoys traveling, swimming and finding new sushi restaurants.

Follow Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson on Twitter: @ScoopB, Instagram: @Scoop_B & Facebook: ScoopB.

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Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson is a columnist at Basketball Society. Follow him on Twitter: @ScoopB and Instagram: @Scoop_B. As a 12 year old, he was a Nets reporter from 1997-1999, co-hosting a show called Nets Slammin’ Planet with former Nets legend, Albert King, WFAN’s Evan Roberts and Nets play-by-play man Chris Carrino. Scoop B has also been a writer and radio host at CBS, a staff writer at The Source Magazine and managing editor/columnist at RESPECT Magazine. He’s a graduate of Don Bosco Prep, Eastern University and Hofstra University. You can catch him daily on the Scoop B Radio Podcast. Visit to listen. For inquiries and to contact Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson visit