Nikola Jokic’s Father Had to Convince His NBA Champion Son to Focus on Basketball Instead of Horse Racing

Nikola Jokic reportedly owns "more than half a dozen" horses and says he plans to buy another after winning the NBA championship

<p>Justin Edmonds/Getty</p> Nikola Jokic and daughter Ognjena

Justin Edmonds/Getty

Nikola Jokic and daughter Ognjena

Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets will celebrate the city’s first NBA championship on Thursday with a parade downtown, but there’s one thing that will be bugging the NBA Finals MVP all day: Will he make it home to Serbia in time to see his horses race this weekend?

Jokic, 28, capped off a historic NBA Finals run on Monday night that has Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas saying he’s now in the conversation for being one of the game’s most “legendary” players — winning back-to-back NBA MVP awards in recent years before leading his team to the franchise's first championship this season.

But whether it was a confident swagger or a true glimpse into what friends call his “lowkey” personality, Jokic kept telling reporters after Monday night’s 94-89 championship win over the Miami Heat that he wanted to get home to his stable in his hometown of Sombor, Serbia, to see his horses.

"On Sundays, I have my horse racing,” Jokic explained after the game. “I don't know how I'm going to arrive [in time] with Thursday the parade. Friday maybe? I'm going to ask [Nuggets owner Josh Kroenke] for a plane."

When ESPN’s Lisa Saulters asked him to put into words what it’s like to finally hoist the NBA’s Larry O’Brien trophy, Jokic responded almost without expression: “It's good. It's good. The job is done, and we can go home now."

Related: Denver Nuggets Win 2023 NBA Finals After Defeating Miami Heat 94-89

<p>Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty</p> Nikola Jokic

Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty

Nikola Jokic
<p>Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty</p> Nikola Jokic and his family

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty

Nikola Jokic and his family

Waiting for Jokic at home is a stable full of “more than half a dozen” horses, according to The Athletic. Jokic, too big to ride horses at 6-foot-11 and 284 pounds, is still passionate enough to train racehorses and has had a lifelong love of being around them.

“I had two older brothers who played basketball,” he once told SLAM Magazine in 2016. “I fell in love with basketball because of them. We would always play together. But then at some point in my life I started to go into horse racing. I just fell in love with horses and their beauty and elegance. It was like a hobby for me. I didn’t get serious with it. And I wasn’t taking basketball serious either. I was in between both.”

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His father, Branislav, told The Associated Press after Monday night’s championship win that at one point early on, his son wanted to be a horseman instead of a basketball player.

“He started growing, both in height and in size, and he started to become aware that he could be a basketball player, but he had a great desire in those days,” Branislav said. “He would say, ‘Dad, I want to become a horseman.’ And I used to tell him: ‘Son, become a basketball player first, and you’ll become a great horseman later.”

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<p>ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty</p> Branislav Jokic


Branislav Jokic
<p>Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty</p> Nikola Jokic and brother Strahinja

Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty

Nikola Jokic and brother Strahinja

During the NBA season, Jokic finds ways to visit stables around the United States while the Nuggets travel to other cities to play.

Jokic has even developed a friendship with Hall of Fame New Jersey-based harness racer Tim Tetrick, who told The New York Daily News recently that the five-time NBA All-Star visits him and goes with him to local stables when the team plays on the East Coast — once making his Nuggets teammates wait three hours for him while he worked with horses with Tetrick.

The NBA star was even texting Tetrick, 41, shortly before Game 3 of this year’s NBA Finals to check in about races, the trainer said. “I said, you got a game in 30 minutes,” Tetrick said.

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“Just a down-to-earth kind of dude. Lowkey,” Tetrick told the Daily News. “You wouldn’t know he gets paid $40 million a year to play basketball. He shows up with sweats to the barn. Then he’s got his training suit and jumps in and he just loves to hang out.”

Jokic will have to make room in his locker, where reporters say a horse ribbon is proudly displayed in front of his MVP Awards, after winning both the NBA championship and the Finals MVP Award. And he’ll also have to make more room in his stable back home, telling ESPN’s Malika Andrews he planned to buy another horse once the Nuggets won the title.

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