Kiszla: How Steph Curry and Nikola Jokic redefined what it means to be basketball superheroes

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Nikola Jokic and Steph Curry are twin sons of an immaculate conception by basketball gods that got crazy and messed with conventional wisdom.

What makes Curry and Jokic so special, said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, is how the Warriors point guard and Nuggets center are two old souls that have invented ways to disrupt the game with innovation capable of leaving everybody else in the NBA dumbfounded by their brilliance.

“You see certain players that are throwback players, guys that could play in any era,” Malone said. “I think Steph and Nikola are two great examples of that.”

In an early season game that didn’t require a custom-painted court or the contrivance of a made-for-TV tournament to be special, Jokic and Curry worked their magic on Wednesday night during a game between Denver and Golden State, with the four MVP trophies won between them as proof that maybe it’s time we redefine the meaning of athletic brilliance.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr declared: “You’re talking about two of the greatest players ever.”

Curry and Jokic “have seemingly been inspired by players who came before them, but both have carved out their own unique style,” Kerr said. “It’s beautiful to watch. It’s one of my favorite things about watching basketball. There are so many ways to impact the game and so many different kinds of players that can dominate a game. Steph and Nikola are two of the most unique.”

OK, we all know Jokic and Curry aren’t identical twins. A quick check of their birth certificates will reveal they were born nearly seven years apart. Even more obvious to the naked eye: Denver’s center stands barely a cabbage roll shy of 7 feet tall, while Steph is short enough to be Joker’s nesting doll.

“What Steph has done,” Malone said, “is give a lot of hope to guys that aren’t 6-foot-7 and don’t jump ridiculously high.”

What Jokic has done is give hope to teenagers that leave their shirt on at the beach. Remember the pudgy adolescent that Denver drafted with the 41st overall pick of the 2014 draft? Almost a decade ago, who would’ve dreamed Joker could grow up to be the new king of the basketball universe?

“It’s funny, when you talk about athleticism, everyone usually associates that with how fast you are and how high you jump,” Kerr said. “But there’s a kind of athleticism (Curry and Jokic have) that is probably tougher to quantify. It’s a coordination; it’s a vision; it’s a flow; it’s a sense of space.”

The indescribable wow of Jokic and Curry is more art than science, more poetry than analytics.

“Neither by the traditional definition is particularly athletic,” Kerr said. “But to me, they are two of the great athletes in the league.”

This shared brilliance is buried deep within the basketball DNA of Curry and Jokic. They do more than see a different game. In a sport where our superheroes are supposed to look more like LeBron James, Joker and Steph have the imagination to dominate with old-school fundamentals applied with disruptive creativity.

“Their IQs are off the charts. And what you love about both of them is they never fight the game,” said Malone, who had the pleasure of working two seasons with a young Curry while an assistant coach for the Warriors before being blessed to have Jokic on his side in Denver.

In the greatest NBA dynasty of the super team era, Curry has led the Warriors to four championships since 2015. While Jokic did what many thought was impossible by bringing the Larry O’Brien Trophy home to Colorado for the first time in franchise history, he has a long way to go to match the miracles performed by the greatest shooter the league has ever seen.

But no less an authority than Kerr gave a strong hint why the Nuggets have a chance to build a little dynasty of their own.

The secret sauce in the blueprint for an NBA dynasty?

“A star player who is also a star human being,” Kerr said. “It’s the case of me with Steph. It’s the case of (Malone) with Nikola … or (Gregg Popovich) with Tim Duncan. It’s kind of the history of the league.”

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