DENVER — Nikola Jokic plays for Denver. And for Serbia.
These two places could make the same claim again: For the second straight season, they were home to the NBA’s MVP.
The league announced Wednesday night that Jokic has won back-to-back MVP awards. The Nuggets big man is the second straight international player to win two consecutive championships, following Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (from Greece) who won honors in 2019 and 2020.
This marks the first time an international player has won the award in four consecutive seasons. Canada’s Steve Nash played back-to-back with Phoenix in 2005 and 2006, followed by Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki in 2007 with Dallas.
The international players ended the game 1-2-3. Jokic received 65 first-place votes and 875 points from the writers and broadcasters panel. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid was second with 26 votes and 706 points; Antetokounmpo was third with 9 votes and 595 points. Phoenix’s Devin Booker was fourth.
“I don’t know what else you can say to Nikola at this point,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said in a statement. “He’s been improving his game, he’s been proving people wrong when they doubted him, and he’s been the best player on the field, day and night.”
The 27-year-old Jokic is averaging 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists on a team that lacks two of its biggest players in Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (guard), and won 48 games. The versatile center nicknamed “The Joker” also created a new category, becoming the first NBA player to surpass 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season.
He’s now a member of another rare club — the 13th player to win back-to-back NBA MVP awards. He joins Giannis 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 each won the award for three consecutive seasons.
Jokic was also terrified, and rode behind his horse in a two-wheeled carriage in a stable in Serbia. Malone was waiting to hug him. So did president of basketball operations Tim Connery.
“This is a really exciting time for me,” Jokic said in an interview with TNT Radio. “Astonishing.”
Jokic was selected by the Nuggets with the 41st overall pick in 2014. His choice flashed across the bottom of the TV screen in a Taco Bell commercial that day.
He has come a long way. He’s eligible for an over-contract extension that would guarantee him nearly $254 million in bonuses over five seasons starting in 2023-24.
It’s all going to come to him – on the road.
“Maybe when I’m old and fat and grumpy, hopefully I’ll remember, I’ll tell my kids, ‘I used to play basketball really well,'” Jokic said.
James also continued his record — 19 years in the league and at least one vote (fifth) in MVP voting in ’19. No one has more votes in more seasons than James, or obviously more votes in consecutive seasons.
Despite their bad season — the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t even play — James still had some of the best numbers in the league. The 37-year-old averaged 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists, passing Karl Malone for second all-time scoring and passing Abdul-Jabbar late the following day for the league historical leader. season.
James has seen the game change over his 19 seasons. He was part of the last U.S. basketball team that didn’t win an Olympic gold medal — the one that went to Athens in 2004 — and even then believed that the sport would only get stronger around the world.
Jokic further demonstrates this.
Nor did he prove it himself. Antetokounmpo and Embiid have done their job. Dallas’ Luka Doncic (fifth in MVP voting) is already a Euroleague champion, and he’s sure to win at least one NBA MVP award before he’s done.
They are a new generation of international superstars following Nowitzki, Hakim Olajuwon, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Paul and Marc Gasol, Yao Ming and others. The debate over which international player (both now and historically) is the best will rage, but Giannis Antetokounmpo (two MVPs and a champion) and now Jokic (two MVPs) are in the process of becoming a second-round pick. ) must have entered the chat.
Canada won the championship when the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship in 2019. That night, the Canadian flag was soaked in champagne, Pascal Siakam danced with the Cameroonian flag on his shoulders, and team president Masai Ujiri was interviewed with a Nigerian scarf around his neck. Just a small part of the Raptors with deep international ties.
It’s not inconceivable that five international players could be lottery picks in next month’s draft. Few don’t think France’s Victor Wembanyama — a 7-foot-2 player with guard skills — is the current No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft.
Those newcomers will want to be like Jokic. They’re going to want to be the MVP and he’s just showing kids from all over the world that it’s the latest name that’s possible.
“If it’s not me, who is it?” Jokic responded when asked if he considers himself the longest shot player. “Basically, I couldn’t have come from this city and this stable to play basketball in the NBA. Now I’m playing basketball in the best league in the world and playing at a high level.”
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