LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was named NBA Most Valuable Player for the second straight season on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old Serbian star averaged 27.1 points per game with 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists this season as the Nuggets finished sixth in the Western Conference.
He beat out Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks in the final voting, receiving 875 points ˗with 65 first-place votes — from a global panel of 100 sports journalists.
Jokic is the 15th player to win multiple MVP awards. The Nuggets were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors.
He became the 13th player to win the award in consecutive seasons, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Antetokounmpo, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Moses Malone, Steve Nash and Bill Russell.
Embiid finished in second place with 706 points (26 first-place votes).
Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo, who won back-to-back MVP awards in 2019 and 2020, finished in third place with 595 points (nine first-place votes), followed by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker in fourth place with 216 points and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic in fifth place with 146 points.
It marked the first time that the top three and four overall of the top five finishers, were international players. Embiid is from Cameroon, Antetokounmpo from Greece and Doncic from Slovenia.
In the televised announcement of the award, broadcaster TNT showed footage of Nuggets coach Michael Malone and some of Jokic’s teammates delivering the trophy to him at his horse farm in Serbia.
“Now, I don’t think about (the awards), but probably when I’m old, fat and grumpy, I’m gonna remember, and I’m gonna tell my kids,” he told TNT via video chat.
Jokic joined Antetokounmpo as the second European to win the award more than once.
He said it was a really emotional moment when he was surprised at home with the award.
“Nobody ever came here,” he said. “I think it’s amazing.”
His season statistics, which also included 1.47 steals per game and 0.85 blocked shots per game, were career highs in every category except assists.
He ranked sixth in the NBA in points, second in rebounds, eighth in assists, 12th in steals and 33rd in blocks per game.
He led the league in total rebounds (1,019) and total defensive rebounds (813). His career-high 58.3 field goal percentage was eighth-highest in the NBA.
He became the first player in NBA history to record at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season and the first player to average at least 25.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in a season.
He led the league with 19 triple-doubles.
“I don’t know what else you can say about Nikola at this point,” Malone said in a statement. “He’s consistently improved his game, he’s consistently proven people wrong when they doubt him and he’s consistently the best player on the floor night in and night out.”