In the 1990s, things sort of went sideways in Yugoslavia when a complicated series of human rights abuses started to unfold. Boundaries changed, the Kosovo Liberation Army started hitting back hard at Serbian occupiers, Serbian forces killed countless civilians, and NATO ended up getting involved. What does that have to do with Nikola Jokić? The then 4-year-old was, at the time, growing up in a town called Sombor and living right in the middle of it.
When he spoke with the Bleacher Report, he recalled his earliest memories of it: "I remember things like sirens, bomb shelters, always turning off the lights. We practically lived in the dark. Even at like 9 a.m., everything was turned off." Thousands of people were killed over the course of the series of wars that unfolded.
Since then, Jokić has spoken out about other violent incidents that have shocked his native country. In 2023, a student identified only by the initials KK was arrested in connection with a school shooting that left nine dead and seven wounded at a school in Belgrade. Jokić told Denver 7, "It's something you don't want to hear about. When it hits... a little closer to you, it doesn't make sense. ... I would say, 'We don't have that [in Serbia], but maybe that's just a mindset, that's not true. People, kids, we all have problems. We need to take care of everybody."