Dwight’s Amazing BTS Story About Playing Mind Games With Jokic


Nikola Jokic is completely unstoppable these days, but back in the 2020 Western Conference finals, Dwight Howard at least managed to slow him down significantly.

Jokic averaged 25.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game against the Jazz and Clippers across the first two rounds of those playoffs, but that dropped to 21.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists against Howard and the Lakers. LA won the series 4-1 and went on to become NBA champions.

This week, Howard detailed the extreme lengths he went to in order to stop Jokic.

“I love Jokic, the year I came back to play against Denver, I studied this man so I knew when I played him what I needed to do,” Howard said on his podcast ‘Above The Rim with DH 12’.

“It’s a mental game. I studied him the whole summer. I watched clips, I watched everything he did. I learned how to do what he was doing, not so I could do it in a game, but I learned what he was doing so that when he did it, I was able to contain it.

“That’s the whole mental aspect of the game that people don’t even understand why I was so good at defense. I studied him so much and then I started studying his mentality, what he was doing off the court. Like, when we was in the bubble, that’s what I was doing. I’m watching everything he doing every single day. I’m looking at every player, I’m looking at everything they doing just so I can have a mental edge.

Dwight added that he took things to such an extreme that Jokic seemed to think he was acting a little crazy.

“… That shows you how much respect I have for him as a player, that I’m really taking this to the point where I’m like, every moment I’m watching him. And then he looking at me too like, “Bruh what the hell wrong with Dwight?”

“[It was] even to the point where… so their lunch room was across from ours. So what I’m doing, is I’m going in they lunch room. I’m speaking to the players, I’m speaking to the coaches, I’m speaking to him too! I’m doing all this stuff because it’s a mind game to me. People think I’m joking and having a good time, they don’t realise I’m the one playing ‘the game’.”

It’s worth noting that Jokic was not quite the player he is today. The Joker was 24 when he faced Dwight in the 2020 conference finals. It was the year before he took another big leap and won his first MVP. Then again, he still finished top 10 in MVP voting that season, so he was already a great player.

Dwight did a great job back in 2020, but it’s safe to say he wouldn’t have as much luck against Jokic now, despite tweeting that he could still help the Lakers against the Nuggets this postseason.

READ MORE: Why the Golden State Warriors Decided Against Signing Dwight Howard