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Nikola Jokic struggled at the start of his NBA career when he joined the Denver Nuggets and had to change his diet to become the league MVP in 2021, the Serbian center said in an interview aired on Serbia’s Arenasport on Saturday

The 26-year old joined the Nuggets from Serbian side Mega Basket in 2015, and last season he became the lowest NBA draft pick to win the MVP award, averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 assists and 8.3 assists per game.

“I used to drink two or three liters of Coca-Cola every day and I had my last can on the flight to the United States, Jokic said.

“The first week in practice was tough. All my teammates were more physical and athletic, they could slam dunk any way you like and I kind of wanted to go home.

“I am now in my seventh NBA season, having warmed the bench in the beginning and then I was given some ‘garbage time’ before I broke into the starting five. It was a process, though I suppose I took the road less traveled.”

Jokic said he only joined the NBA thanks to being shunned by European giant Barcelona during his first season at Mega Basket, which competes in a regional league incorporating teams from the former Yugoslavia.

“They turned up at our home game with Cedevita Zagreb to offer me a move but they put it on hold after I put in a very poor performance,” he said. “Then the Nuggets came and the rest is history.”

Jokic, who boasts exceptional long-range shooting as well as passing and dribbling skills for a 211-cm center, led the Nuggets to last season’s Western Conference finals with averages of 29.8 points and 11.6 rebounds in the playoffs.

Jokic pointed to Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant as the league’s most impressive players, but said he never looked up to any of his peers.

“Any of the top 20 players in the league can nail 50 points on you, but if you start admiring them and accept that they are better players, you lose your competitive edge.

“I keep saying to everyone, though, if you don’t like Curry you don’t like basketball. Durant, in turn, is the best offensive player in the league. He is unguardable.”

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