Nikola Jokic Passes Shaq on List of Most Playoff Assists by Center

In the ever-evolving landscape of the NBA, milestones and records are continually being set and broken. One such remarkable achievement was recently accomplished by Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets’ superstar center. Jokic has officially surpassed the legendary Shaquille O’Neal on the list of most playoff assists by a center. This milestone is not just a testament to Jokic’s extraordinary skill set but also highlights the changing role of the modern NBA center. But what does this achievement mean in the grander scheme of basketball history? Let’s delve into the details and explore the significance of Jokic’s accomplishment.

Table of Contents

Sr# Headings
1 The Rise of Nikola Jokic
2 Breaking Down the Milestone
3 Jokic vs. Shaq: A Comparison
4 The Evolution of the NBA Center
5 Playmaking Prowess
6 Impact on the Denver Nuggets
7 Reactions from the Basketball Community
8 What This Means for Jokic’s Legacy
9 Looking Ahead: Jokic’s Future Prospects
10 Conclusion
11 FAQs

The Rise of Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic’s journey to NBA stardom is nothing short of inspiring. Born in Sombor, Serbia, Jokic’s path to the top was unconventional. Unlike many of his peers who attended prestigious basketball programs or were highly touted from a young age, Jokic was a second-round draft pick in 2014, selected 41st overall. His unassuming entry into the league belied the transformative impact he would have on the Denver Nuggets and the NBA as a whole.

Jokic’s unique combination of size, skill, and basketball IQ quickly set him apart. Standing at 6’11” and weighing 284 pounds, he has the physical presence typical of an NBA center. However, it’s his finesse, vision, and playmaking ability that truly distinguish him. Jokic’s rise to prominence has been marked by his ability to not only score and rebound but also to facilitate and create opportunities for his teammates, a skill that has now earned him a place in the record books.

Breaking Down the Milestone

Surpassing Shaquille O’Neal in playoff assists is a significant achievement. Shaq, known for his dominance in the paint and sheer physicality, was not traditionally seen as a playmaker. However, his ability to draw defenses and make smart passes was often underrated. For Jokic to surpass him speaks volumes about the Serbian center’s versatility and basketball intelligence.

As of the date of this writing, Jokic has accumulated over 570 playoff assists, moving him past Shaq’s total of 568. This achievement is particularly impressive considering the different eras and styles of play. Jokic’s ability to distribute the ball and involve his teammates is a reflection of the modern NBA’s emphasis on versatile big men who can do it all.

Jokic vs. Shaq: A Comparison

Playing Style: Shaquille O’Neal was a force of nature. His sheer size and strength made him nearly unstoppable in the paint. Shaq’s game was built around power, with a focus on dominating the low post and scoring at will. His playmaking, while effective, was more about making the right pass out of a double team rather than orchestrating the offense.

Nikola Jokic, on the other hand, is a maestro on the court. His game is characterized by his exceptional passing ability, court vision, and intelligence. Jokic can score from all three levels, but his true brilliance lies in his ability to read defenses and set up his teammates for easy baskets.

Statistical Comparison: While Shaq’s career averages of 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game are remarkable, Jokic’s stats reflect his multifaceted role: 20.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game (as of the 2023-24 season). Jokic’s assist numbers are what set him apart, showcasing his role as a central playmaker for the Nuggets.

The Evolution of the NBA Center

The NBA center position has undergone a significant transformation over the past few decades. In Shaq’s era, the center’s primary role was to dominate the paint, defend the rim, and control the boards. Scoring was often done through post moves, dunks, and putbacks.

Today’s centers, however, are expected to be more versatile. They need to have a well-rounded game, including the ability to shoot from distance, handle the ball, and, crucially, pass effectively. This evolution has been driven by the increasing pace of the game, the emphasis on spacing, and the rise of analytics that value efficiency and versatility.

Jokic is a prime example of this new breed of center. His ability to initiate the offense, shoot from beyond the arc, and make pinpoint passes has redefined what it means to be a center in the NBA.

Playmaking Prowess

Court Vision: Jokic’s court vision is arguably unparalleled among big men. He has an uncanny ability to see plays develop before they happen, much like a quarterback in football. This allows him to make passes that seem impossible, threading the needle through tight defenses to find open teammates.

Passing Ability: Jokic’s passes come in all forms: no-look dimes, behind-the-back dishes, and pinpoint lobs. His ability to deliver the ball accurately and on time makes him a constant threat and forces defenses to stay alert, creating more opportunities for his teammates.

Basketball IQ: Beyond just physical skills, Jokic’s high basketball IQ allows him to read and react to defenses in real-time. Whether it’s recognizing a double team and finding the open man or executing a quick give-and-go, Jokic’s mental sharpness is a key component of his playmaking prowess.

Impact on the Denver Nuggets

Jokic’s playmaking ability has transformed the Denver Nuggets into a perennial playoff contender. His presence on the court elevates the performance of everyone around him. Teammates benefit from his unselfish play, often finding themselves in better scoring positions thanks to Jokic’s passes.

Offensive Efficiency: The Nuggets’ offense runs through Jokic, and his ability to distribute the ball leads to high-percentage shots. This efficiency is reflected in the team’s offensive ratings and overall success in the postseason.

Team Chemistry: Jokic’s unselfish nature fosters a team-first mentality. His willingness to pass and involve his teammates creates a cohesive unit that operates seamlessly. This chemistry is vital for success in the high-pressure environment of the playoffs.

Reactions from the Basketball Community

Jokic’s milestone has not gone unnoticed. Fans, analysts, and former players have all weighed in on his achievement, often with a mix of admiration and awe.

Fans: Nuggets fans have long appreciated Jokic’s unique skill set, and this milestone only adds to his legend. Social media has been abuzz with highlights and tributes to the “Joker.”

Analysts: Basketball analysts have praised Jokic for his versatility and his impact on the game. Many see him as a trailblazer for the modern center, someone who has redefined the position and set a new standard.

Former Players: Even legends like Shaquille O’Neal have acknowledged Jokic’s talent. Shaq, known for his confidence and swagger, has expressed respect for Jokic’s game, recognizing the Serbian center’s place among the greats.

What This Means for Jokic’s Legacy

Surpassing Shaq in playoff assists is more than just a statistical milestone; it’s a significant addition to Jokic’s legacy. It cements his status as one of the most versatile and impactful centers in NBA history. This achievement will be a key highlight in his Hall of Fame resume, showcasing his unique blend of scoring, rebounding, and playmaking.

Hall of Fame Credentials: With multiple MVP awards, All-NBA selections, and now this assist milestone, Jokic’s path to the Hall of Fame seems assured. His influence on the game and his ability to redefine the center position are hallmarks of a legendary career.

Legacy in Denver: Jokic’s contributions to the Denver Nuggets have made him a beloved figure in the city. He is on track to become the greatest player in franchise history, and this milestone only adds to his legacy in Denver.

Looking Ahead: Jokic’s Future Prospects

As Jokic continues to play at an elite level, the future looks bright for both him and the Nuggets. There are several areas where he could continue to make an impact:

Continued Playoff Success: With Jokic at the helm, the Nuggets are poised to remain a playoff force. His ability to perform under pressure and elevate his game in the postseason will be crucial for the team’s success.

Further Milestones: Jokic has already achieved so much, but there are more milestones within reach. Whether it’s climbing higher on the all-time assists list or securing more MVP awards, Jokic’s potential is limitless.

Influence on Future Generations: Jokic’s style of play is already influencing young centers and forwards. His success as a playmaking big man will inspire future generations to develop a more versatile skill set.


Nikola Jokic’s surpassing of Shaquille O’Neal in playoff assists is a landmark moment in NBA history. It highlights not only Jokic’s individual brilliance but also the evolution of the center position in modern basketball. Jokic’s ability to combine scoring, rebounding, and playmaking sets him apart as one of the most unique talents the game has ever seen. As he continues to build on his legacy, fans and analysts alike will be watching to see just how high he can climb.


1. How many playoff assists does Nikola Jokic have? As of the latest playoff season, Nikola Jokic has accumulated over 570 playoff assists, surpassing Shaquille O’Neal’s total of 568.

2. What makes Nikola Jokic a unique center in the NBA? Jokic’s combination of size, skill, and basketball IQ sets him apart. His exceptional passing ability and court vision make him a standout playmaker, which is rare for a player of his position.

3. How does Jokic’s playmaking ability impact the Denver Nuggets? Jokic’s playmaking elevates the Nuggets’ offensive efficiency and team chemistry. His ability to distribute the ball creates high-percentage scoring opportunities for his teammates, making the team more cohesive and effective.

4. How has the center position evolved in the NBA? The center position has evolved from a focus on physical dominance and scoring in the paint to a more versatile role. Modern centers like Jokic are expected to handle the ball, shoot from distance, and facilitate the offense.

5. What are Nikola Jokic’s future prospects in the NBA? Jokic is poised for continued success, with the potential for more playoff milestones, MVP awards, and a lasting influence on future generations of players. His ability to perform at a high level ensures a bright future for both him and the Denver Nuggets.

Leave a Comment