A slew of sports celebrities took to social media on Sunday to express their feelings about Nikola Jokic’s ejection during the Denver Nuggets’ NBA playoff loss.
After not getting his own foul with 3:52 left in the third quarter and the Nuggets trailing the Suns by eight points, the NBA Most Valuable Player took a hard swipe at Cameron Payne, knocking the ball loose but also hitting Payne in the face.
The foul sparked a brawl between the two teams, with Jokic and Devin Booker squaring off in the middle of it all.
After everyone was separated, Jokic was called for a flagrant 2 foul, which meant he was ejected from the game, and Booker was called for a technical foul.
Jokic had 22 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes, but the Nuggets lost 125-118 to the Suns in game four of their best-of-seven NBA playoff series, completing a four-game sweep. As a result, the Suns will face either the Utah Jazz or the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference finals.
Following the game, Jokic stated that he only committed the foul to give his team a boost and that he apologized to Payne.
“I wanted to change the rhythm of the game, I wanted to give us some energy,” he told the media. “I tried to make a hard foul. Did I hit him? I didn’t know. I say sorry if I did because I didn’t want to injure him or hit him in the head on purpose.”
Members of the sporting community took to social media to question whether ejecting Jokic was the right decision with the Nuggets’ season on the line and facing playoff elimination.
Ja Morant, the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year, described the league as “soft.”
“Playoffs. elimination game. give him a flagrant 1 and play ball man,” the Memphis Grizzlies point guard said on Twitter.
Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks responded with a simple “wow,” while former NFL Pro Bowl quarterback Robert Griffin III expressed his disbelief at the decision.
“Still can’t believe they ejected MVP Jokic for hitting a ball real hard,” the 31-year-old said on Twitter.
Following their franchise-record seventh consecutive playoff victory, Booker admitted that he had no animosity toward Jokic, calling it a “emotional play.”
“I don’t think he meant harm by it,” he told the media. “It was just a frustration foul. It was tough, just defending my teammate. That was it. I saw him go up to Cam (Payne) after and apologize. I’ve played against the Joker multiple times. I know he’s not a malicious player.”
For the first time since 2010, when they even made the playoffs, the Suns advanced to the conference finals.