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Nikola Jokić makes Nuggets history and joins an exclusive club

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

The transformation of Nikola Jokić from a well-kept secret in the Mile High City to a bona fide superstar took another major step on Thursday when the Nuggets forward was first-team All-NBA. That may sound like hyperbole, but take a look at the other players on the roster before jumping to that conclusion.

Steph Curry and James Harden have won Most Valuable Player awards. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a rising star currently two wins away from playing in his first NBA Finals. And Paul George is a six-time All-Star who was a member of the 2016 Dream Team at the Olympics in Rio.

That’s some pretty exclusive company. But it’s not the only club that Jokić was able to break into on Thursday. The announcement also moved him into rarified air when it comes to the best players in Nuggets history.

The franchise was a founding member of the ABA in 1967, but became a part of the NBA when the two leagues merged in 1976. Since then, only one other Nuggets player has ever been named first-team All-NBA, David Thompson in 1976-77 and 1977-78. In the 41 years since, no Denver player has ever been cracked the league’s ultimate starting five.

All told, Jokic becomes only the seventh Nugget to earn any type of All-NBA honors, whether it’s first-, second- or third-team. In addition to Jokic and Thompson, Alex English, Fat Lever, Antonio McDyess, Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony have received the league’s premier award.

How did Jokic pull it off? By being a unique big man, serving as the centerpiece of a Nuggets offense and helping the franchise jump to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

On the season, Jokić averaged career-highs in points (20.1), rebounds (10.8) and assists (7.3). Even more impressively, the center became the first big man since Wilt Chamberlain to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in a single season; Chamberlain accomplished that in 1967-68, more than half a century ago.

The honor is a sign that the league has finally taken notice of Jokić’s unique skills. In a league built around one-on-one, above-the-rim players, the Nuggets center is a different breed; he’s a pass-first, low-post player in an old-school kind of way.

The NBA is a star-driven league and for the first time in age, the Nuggets finally have one. Today’s announcement solidified that fact.