Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic won his second consecutive NBA MVP award over Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league announced Wednesday.
Jokic received 65 (out of 100) first-place votes and 875 total points. Embiid was the runner-up with 26 and 706, followed by Antetokounmpo with nine and 595.
The 27-year-old Serbian becomes the 13th player in NBA history to win back-to-back MVP awards. He joins: Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Karl Malone and Bob Pettit are the only other players to win twice. Every eligible player with multiple MVPs is in the Hall of Fame.
Jokic averaged 27.1 points (58/34/81 shooting splits), 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists in 33.5 minutes over 74 games this season. He is the first player to amass 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season. Jokic's 32.8 player efficiency rating and 13.7 box plus-minus are the highest in history, and he led the NBA in almost every all-encompassing advanced statistic available, including win shares (15.2), value over replacement player (9.8) and real plus-minus (11.78). There was no statistical case against Jokic.
Jokic (74 games): 27.1 PPG (58/34/81), 13.7 RPG, 7.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 33.5 MPG
Embiid (68 games): 30.6 PPG (50/37/81), 11.7 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 33.8 MPG
Antetokounmpo (67 games): 29.9 PPG (55/29/72), 11.6 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 32.9 MPG
Jokic: 32.8 PER, 66.1 TS%, 15.2 WS (.296 WS/48), 13.7 BPM, 9.8 VORP, 11.78 RPM
Embiid: 31.2 PER, 61.6 TS%, 12.0 WS (.252 WS/48), 9.2 BPM, 6.5 VORP, 9.83 RPM
Antetokounmpo: 32.1 PER, 63.3 TS%, 12.9 WS (.281 WS/48), 11.2 BPM, 7.4 VORP, 8.18 RPM
Jokic's sixth-place Nuggets finished the season with a 48-34 record, three games below Antetokounmpo's third-place Bucks and Embiid's fourth-place Sixers, despite losing Jamal Murray for the season and Michael Porter Jr. for all but nine games. Jokic played in more victories this season than Embiid or Antetokounmpo.
Denver lost to the Golden State Warriors in five games in its first-round playoff series. Despite Jokic's production, critics will cite this postseason as evidence he is not deserving of the regular-season award. The Nuggets reached the 2020 Western Conference finals when Murray was healthy and looked like a championship favorite before his ACL injury in April 2021. That Jokic led the Nuggets to 48 wins in the West without Porter, either, remains impressive.
Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant was among the contingent of players and analysts who preemptively questioned Jokic's second MVP honor. "If I had a vote, I would choose Joel," Durant said in April. He added, "In Joel’s case, more people just like Giannis and Jokic," and declared, "It's not fair."
Embiid made similar comments at the end of the regular season, telling reporters, if he is not named MVP, "I'll feel like they hate me. I feel like the standard for guys in Philly or for me is different than everyone else."
It is a strange argument, considering how popular Embiid is among media members who vote for the award. He is a fierce competitor on the court and an enjoyable interview off of it. Fans also made Embiid's jersey the sixth-highest-selling item in the league, ahead of Antetokounmpo (seventh) and Jokic (15th).
Even Sixers legend Julius Erving — one of four MVPs in Philadelphia's history — said on "The Rich Eisen Show" at the start of April, "I’m hopeful that Embiid wins it, because he does talk about it, and it’s something that is one of those carrots out there that he’s reaching for, but I think the most deserving guy is Jokic."
The media panel agreed, and Jokic's spot in the Hall of Fame is now reserved.
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