Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has been named as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the second season in a row.
The 27-year-old Serbian – who was the 41st pick of the 2014 draft – was named as an All-Star for the fourth successive season after another dominant year from the center position. He pipped Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo to the award.
Jokic is the 15th player to win the MVP multiple times and the second straight to win back-to-back awards after Antetokounmpo in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Jokic accepted the award while at his horse stable in Serbia.
When asked by TNT’s Ernie Johnson after winning the award if he ever considered himself a longshot, Jokic agreed, adding, “There is no way I’d come to NBA and play basketball from this city, from this stable, basically, and now I’m playing basketball in the best league in the world and playing at a high level.”
As a young boy, Jokic said he “was not thinking about playing basketball, not even going to lie.”
“I was here in the stable,” he said. “I was cleaning the boxes. I was cleaning the horses. At that age, I was not thinking about basketball at all.”
Jokic improved on his overall game from last year’s MVP-winning season, averaging 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists in 74 regular-season games this year. Last year, he averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game.
During the regular season, Jokic became the first player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season.
He also racked up a league-leading 19 triple-doubles in the regular season, meaning he has 76 in his career, which trails only Wilt Chamberlain (78) among centers.
“To watch Nikola develop into one of the few back-to-back MVPs this league has ever seen has been truly incredible,” said Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly. “It’s indicative of who Nikola is as a person and a basketball player – hard working, extremely motivated and dedicated to bettering himself and all of his teammates any way he can.”
Jokic’s Nuggets were extremely shorthanded this season. Point guard Jamal Murray missed the entire year due to a torn ACL while Michael Porter Jr. played just nine games because of a back injury.
Yet despite all the adversity in his way, Jokic was able to drag Denver to the playoffs, finishing as the Western Conference’s sixth seed.
That earned the Nuggets a clash with the Golden State Warriors where they would eventually lose in five games in their best-of-seven game series.
In the series, Jokic averaged 31.0 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.6 steals and one block per game on 57.5% shooting from the field, almost singlehandedly keeping the Nuggets in most of the games.
The five games included some fierce battles with Warriors forward Draymond Green – widely considered one of the best defensive players in the NBA.
After the Warriors had clinched the series winning victory in Game 5, Jokic and Green shared an embrace at half-court and exchanged some words which Green explained in his postgame press conference.
“I told him thank you for making me better. It’s an honor and a pleasure to play someone so skilled. Usually when you have guys that talented and skilled, they’re soft. And he’s far, far from soft. He’s an absolutely incredible player,” Green said.
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