News agency3 minutes to read
SOMBOR, Serbia — Less than a week after he drove L.A Nikola Jokic returned to the Denver Nuggets for his first NBA championship, in his hometown of Sombor on Sunday to enjoy his wild passion for horse racing.
Thousands of his supporters gathered in the normally quiet northern Serbian town of about 47,000 people at the local hippodrome, where Jokic watched his family’s horses compete in horse races. Many of them wore T-shirts with Jokic’s picture, some with “Be the Next Champion” and “Sombor, City of Heroes” written on it.
A billboard reading “Welcome Home MVP” showed Jokic in his No. 15 Nuggets jersey and also depicted galloping horses.
After winning the NBA title, Jokic fretted about whether he could get home in time for Sunday’s races after showing off the team’s victory in Denver on Thursday. He joked that he would ask Nuggets president Josh Kroenke to loan him the team plane to make sure he got there on time.
This was a special day for Sombor Racecourse. The beer and barbecue stands were in full swing, as was the festive atmosphere with people waiting in long lines to attend.
Jokic arrived late to the track, followed by the local media. Notoriously shy and laconic, he was in no talkative mood and refused to speak to journalists, whom he would pass on entering the racecourse.
He would appear in the stands now and then among members of his family and friends, watch every race his family’s stable entered in, and then disappear out of sight. He was accompanied by his wife, daughter, brother, father and friends.
The crowd erupted in applause and joy when Jokić made his debut wearing a polo shirt emblazoned with “Dream Catcher” after the first horse he had bought in years.
His father, Branislav, said that Jokić would not answer reporters’ questions.
“Dad told me, I’ve had enough publicity over the past few days,” said Branislav Jokic. “And I believe him.”
Jokic developed a strong passion for horses and horse racing in his youth, and it almost took him away from basketball as a child, his father said.
Denver clinched the NBA title on Monday by defeating the Miami Heat 94-89, with Jokic scoring 28 points and 16 rebounds and collecting the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy.
Jokic, nicknamed the Joker by his fans, is coming off a historic playoff. He became the first player to lead the league in total points (600), rebounds (269) and assists (190) in a single season.
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