Nikola Jokic plays for Denver. And for Serbia.
Both places can once again claim the same thing: for the second season in a row, they are home to the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.
The league announced on Thursday (AEST) that Jokic has won back-to-back MVP awards. The Nuggets big man is the second consecutive international player to win two in a row, after Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee – from Greece – was honored in 2019 and 2020.
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It is the first time that international players have won this award in four consecutive seasons. Canadian Steve Nash went to Phoenix twice in 2005 and 2006, followed by German Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas in 2007.
The international players finished 1-2-3. Jokic earned 65 first-place votes and 875 points from the panel of writers and broadcasters. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid finished second with 26 first-place votes and 706 points; Antetokounmpo finished third, with nine first-place votes and 595 points. Phoenix’s Devin Booker finished fourth.
“I don’t know what else you can say about Nikola at this point,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said in a statement. “He constantly improved his game, he constantly proved people wrong when they doubted him and he’s still the best player on the pitch night after night.”
The 27-year-old Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists on a team that lacked up to two players in Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (fullback) and won 48 games. The versatile center nicknamed “Joker” also created a new category by becoming the first NBA player to eclipse 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season.
He is now a member of another rare club – the 13th player to win consecutive NBA MVP awards. He joined Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, LeBron James (twice), Nash, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Moses Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (twice). Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell have each won the award in three consecutive seasons.
Jokic was also taken by surprise as he rode behind his horse on a two-wheeled cart at his stable in Serbia. Malone was waiting to hug him. Same with President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.
“It’s amazing because me and my horse trainer were doing fast training,” Jokic told TNT after the upset.
“It was different because we did it in the afternoon…we usually do it in the morning. I came back to the stable and everyone was there. I saw my godfather’s car (and I wondered) why the hell is he here?
“Then I saw everyone in their shirts…it was a really emotional moment for me. Nobody’s ever been here, so I think it’s amazing. I think it’s once in a while. a life.”
Jokic was taken by the Nuggets with the 41st pick in the 2014 draft. His selection that day crossed the bottom of the television screen during a commercial for Taco Bell.
He comes from afar. He is eligible for a supermax extension that could guarantee him nearly $369 million over five seasons from 2023-24.
All this will appear to him – on the road.
“Probably when I’m old and fat and grumpy, I hope I’ll remember that and tell my kids, ‘Back then, I was really good at basketball,'” Jokic said.
James also extended his record – 19 years in the league, 19 years to get at least one vote on the MVP ballot (a vote for fifth place). No one has gotten votes for more seasons, or obviously, for more consecutive seasons than James.
Despite their disastrous season – the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t even make the qualifying tournament – James’ numbers remained among the best in the league. The 37-year-old averaged 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game, passing Karl Malone for No. 2 on the all-time goalscoring list and in position to pass Abdul -Jabbar as the league’s all-time leader late the next day. season.
James has seen the game change over his 19 seasons. He was part of the last United States basketball team not to win Olympic gold – the team that went to Athens in 2004 – and was even convinced at the time that the game was not was only growing stronger in the world.
Jokic is further proof of this.
Nor does he prove it by himself. Antetokounmpo and Embiid have more than done their part. Dallas’ Luka Doncic (fifth in MVP voting) is already a EuroLeague champion and certainly looks like he’ll win at least one NBA MVP award before he’s done.
They are the new class of international greats, following in the footsteps of Nowitzki, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Pau and Marc Gasol, Yao Ming and others. Debate will rage over which international player – now or all-time – is better, but Antetokounmpo (two MVPs and a championship) and now Jokic (two MVPs after being a second-round pick) have surely entered the cat.
Canada secured a championship in 2019 when the Toronto Raptors won the NBA title. That night, the Canadian flag was dipped in champagne, Pascal Siakam danced with the flag of Cameroon around his shoulders, team president Masai Ujiri did interviews with a Nigerian scarf around his neck, and they were just a few of the Raptors with deep international ties. .
It’s not inconceivable that five international players will be chosen in the lottery in next month’s draft. And there’s hardly anyone who doesn’t see France’s Victor Wembanyama – a 218cm player with guarding skills – as the certain No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft right now.
These newcomers will want to be like Jokic. They’ll want to be the MVP, and he’s just the latest name to show these kids around the world that it’s possible.
“If it’s not me, who is it?” Jokic responded when asked if he considers himself the longest of long shots. “There’s no way I’m coming to the NBA and playing this city’s basketball and playing this team’s basketball, basically. Now I’m playing basketball in the best league in the world and playing at a high level. “
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