Nikola Jokic is one of the most unique superstars in NBA history. He might also be the most unlikely.
In an NBA Draft headlined by the tantalizing potential of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, or even the injury questions surrounding Joel Embiid, Jokic was an afterthought at best.
Jokic wasn't even considered to be the cream of the crop among international prospects leading up to the 2014 draft. Dante Exum, Dario Saric, Jusuf Nurkic, Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanovic were the hottest international names in the draft, and all went ahead of Jokic.
It's not uncommon for second-round picks or even undrafted players to make an impact on playoff-caliber teams in this era of basketball, but there's a case to be made that Jokic's ascension to two-time MVP and Hall of Fame lock is among the most shocking in NBA history.
If anything illustrates just how far Jokic has come, it's what happened to him on draft night. The Sporting News takes a look back at how Jokic and Taco Bell will forever share a connection.
Jokic was drafted 41st overall by the Nuggets in 2014. He was the 11th pick of the second round and the eighth internationally-born player without U.S. college experience selected on draft night.
It's incredibly rare for players drafted between picks 41-60 to turn into All-Stars, and before Jokic, an MVP drafted in the second round was unheard of. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Steve Nash, selected 15th overall, were the lowest-drafted MVPs in NBA history before Jokic earned his first award in 2020-21.
If you want to know how incredible Jokic's rise to prominence has been, it goes deeper than just when he was drafted. More important is what happened when he was drafted.
When Jokic's name was read by deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, ESPN didn't broadcast it. Instead, his name and information came across the bottom while a Taco Bell commercial played over most of the screen.
"Nikola Jokic PF - Serbia," the bottom panel of the screen read while a gigantic quesarito sat in the background.
While in hindsight it might seem insulting to pay such little attention to the pick, the reality is Jokic was selected at a point in the draft when many NBA fans have checked out for the night.
Jokic was also a draft-and-stash player, so he didn't come over to the NBA right away and make an impact for the Nuggets. After winning an MVP in the ABA League in 2014-15, Jokic made the journey to Denver and just didn't stop improving.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone told reporters in May that while Jokic never complained about being drafted 41st, the fact ESPN played a commercial over his selection might have motivated him.
"I think for him it’s been more about somebody took a chance on me, even though I guess he was drafted during a Taco Bell commercial. Maybe that was what pushed him forward, was it didn’t even have his pick on the draft," Malone said.
With that being said, Jokic admitted last year that he was asleep when the Nuggets drafted him and didn't have any plans to join the NBA immediately, so the infamous story of the Taco Bell commercial might not weigh too heavily on his mind.2023-06-01T19:20:40Z dg43tfdfdgfd