Mark Jackson doesn’t seem too shook after Denver Nuggets fans taunted him for leaving Nikola Jokić off his NBA MVP ballot. But Jeff Van Gundy sounds less inclined to let it go.
With the NBA Finals set to tip off Thursday night on ABC, ESPN’s Mike Breen, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Lisa Salters held a media conference call to preview broadcasting the series. During the call, Jackson was asked about the reactions from players, coaches and fans toward his blunder of leaving Jokić off his MVP ballot.
“I’ve had no issues at all,” Jackson said. “And I don’t expect any, you know, other than, one or two fans during one of the games in the Western Conference Finals. Out of the two people, two men, one apologized on the way out, so nothing but class. And I understand the quick comments or, you know, slick comments. I’m fine with that.”
But Van Gundy, who sat next to Jackson during the Western Conference Finals, presumably as he was being heckled by some Nuggets fans, was much less forgiving.
“Mark’s being kind to some of those fans. They were, some of those fans were clowns at the game,” Van Gundy said. “It used to be, when you say I made a mistake, it just goes away. I just, like, the whole stuff about the disrespect is, like, it’s tiring.”
There seems to be a discrepancy in how bad the reaction to Jackson’s blunder was. Jackson deserved some criticism for snubbing Jokić, and even he acknowledged being fine with fielding those comments. But there are still lines that shouldn’t be crossed, and Van Gundy seems to think some of the “clowns” in Denver went too far.
Usually, the NBA MVP debate is a lighthearted one. But tensions were heightened this season after ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins accused voters of holding bias against the league’s Black players. Still, it seemed like everyone unanimously agreed Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jokić were the three front-runners to win the award. Everyone except the one voter who left Jokić off their ballot.
Jackson apologized after he was revealed as that voter, admitting it was a mistake. But the mistake was still another example of the national media overlooking the Nuggets and Jokić throughout the season and into the playoffs.