Clash of the Titans: ROY Wembanyama vs MVP Jokic lives up to hype

Mar 15, 2024; Austin, Texas, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots over San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1)
Mar 15, 2024; Austin, Texas, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots over San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) / Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

In a game that many fans had circled on their calendars, as Most Valuable Player award favorite Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets squared off against Rookie of the Year award favorite Victor Wembanyama.

Jokic is widely regarded as the best basketball player alive, he’s about to win his third MVP award in four years, and he just led the Nuggets to the title in dominant fashion where he took home Finals MVP honors.

The Wembanyama hype train

Wembanyama is commonly considered the next face of the NBA as he entered the league as the most hyped prospect since LeBron James. Wemby hasn’t taken long to deliver on his hype garnering All-NBA and Defensive Player of the Year buzz as a rookie even as his team around him flounders.

The matchup between the two international big men looks to be a selling point for the NBA for many years to come. For that reason, the Spurs hosted the game in the Moody Center in Austin in an attempt to broaden their regional fan base.

Record-breaking crowd

The attempt appeared to be successful as the Moody Center attendance record was broken with a record crowd of 16,223 fans in the building Friday night. Nuggets head coach Michael Malone wasn’t thrilled with the venue and expressed concern that his team would come out flat due to a preseason feel.

But his concerns were quickly put to bed as the Nuggets came out and rolled the Spurs right from Jump Street, building a 37-18 lead after one quarter. The Spurs rallied to come back and chip away over the next 36 minutes, getting as close as four at one point. But they could never fully dig out of their big early hole and the Nuggets held on to win 117-106.

It's Jokic's time

Jokic led the way with 31 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists on 13/19 shooting, playing just 30 minutes. Wemby had a tough shooting night, but still managed 17 points and 9 rebounds. He showed flashes of his brilliance on both ends, but especially defensively as he added 2 steals and 3 blocks, including swatting a Jokic jumper on the first possession of the game.

Wemby has shown some amazing stuff, and the league may belong to him for many years to come. But Friday night was a reminder, that at least for now, the NBA still belongs to Nikola Jokic.