Timberwolves assistant coach Micah Nori details friendship with Nuggets star center Nikola Jokic

Micah Nori has watched Nikola Jokic accept three NBA Most Valuable Player awards — the most recent coming this week — and he joked he’s still waiting for his name to come out of the mouth of the Denver star center.

“I’ve been on him about that, as well,” Nori joked on Sirius XM radio. “I would just appreciate if he would say, ‘Thank you.’ ”

That’s the light-hearted, joking relationship coach and player developed during Nori’s three seasons in Denver — Jokic’s first three seasons in the NBA. Jokic was a second-round draft choice of the Nuggets in 2014, but he didn’t join the NBA squad until 2015.

In the 2015 Summer League, Nori was Jokic’s head coach, and Jokic was not at the top of Nori’s mind. Denver had just drafted guard Emmanuel Mudiay No. 7 overall. The Nuggets also had young standouts Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic, another center and first-round pick.

“I’m not going to lie, I had no idea who Nikola Jokic was. I honest to God didn’t,” Nori told Chad Hartman on WCCO Radio.

So Nori didn’t call a play for Jokic. And the big man has never forgotten that. It’s a common occurrence for Jokic to send Nori GIFs of Forrest Gump running aimlessly around the country with accompanying text saying something to the effect of “This was me in Summer League that first year, because you never ran any plays for me. All I did was run sprints.”

Which is ironic considering Jokic is now recognized as the best player in basketball because of his high IQ and skill level. In true Nori fashion, the coach always responds with wit.

“All I did was turn it around and say, ‘That was just a motivational factor. You needed to earn your stripes, and look how good you are today because of me,’ ” Nori told Hartman. “And obviously that’s not the case.”

The familiarity and bond between the two grew far stronger over the ensuing three seasons. Nori noted it just worked out where the open space for him to stand in the locker room was right by Jokic’s locker.

“So I was next to him for every film session, and we’d talk a little bit. And he honestly is a very quiet, very introverted person,” Nori told Hartman. “But he’s very, very smart, very, very funny and we have the same sense of humor — very sarcastic — and he’s also self-deprecating, not afraid to laugh at himself. And the other thing was he’d just ask very good basketball questions. I was learning from him probably just as much as anything (he learned) from me, at all.”

Jokic even sat next to Nori on the bus.

“I still think, to this day, it’s because he didn’t want to walk all the way to the back and I was closer to the front and he wanted to get out sooner,” Nori joked to Hartman. “So we’d share bus rides and we’d talk a lot. He talked about his horses and his family and stuff, and I’d ask a lot of questions about Serbia. So we just kind of became, naturally, friends there. Then, when I left, we’d always stayed in touch. We still text to this day quite a bit and always give each other a hard time.”

Asked about Nori recently, Jokic said the following to The Athletic: “He’s a bad person, first of all.”

The jokes never end between Nori and the man known as The Joker — fitting so.

“He says brutally honest stuff in really funny ways,” Jokic told The Athletic. “That’s what makes him a really interesting, really funny guy.”

Related Articles