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Nikola Jokic becomes lowest draft pick ever to win MVP award

DENVER — Nikola Jokic was chosen with the forty first draft pick when he entered the NBA seven years in the past.

Now, by overwhelming consensus, he‘s No. 1.

The Nuggets‘ huge man was revealed Tuesday because the NBA‘s Most Valuable Player for 2020-21, making him by far the lowest draft pick ever to win the award. “The Joker” now has his identify etched alongside the best gamers in league historical past, which certainly appeared unlikely when he was that unheralded prospect out of Sombor, Serbia in 2014.

“To be honest, I didn’t even think I would be in the NBA,” Jokic mentioned. “My goal when I started to play basketball back home, it was playing in Euroleague because that was kind of the closest top league to my country.”

He did a little bit extra.

Jokic was the runaway winner, getting 91 of the 101 first-place ballots solid – 100 of them from a worldwide panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who cowl the league, the opposite being an combination first-place poll compiled from fan voting.

That fan vote was the outlier: It went to 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks, the one vote Rose bought.

Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid was second, Golden State’s Stephen Curry was third, 2019 and 2020 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee was fourth and Phoenix’s Chris Paul was fifth.

The earlier record-holders for lowest draft picks who turned MVPs have been Steve Nash and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who have been each chosen fifteenth general. Antetokounmpo gained the MVP award every of the final two seasons.

Greece now cedes the bragging rights to Serbia — the fifth nation exterior of the U.S. to declare an MVP, becoming a member of Canada (Nash), Greece (Antetokounmpo), Nigeria (Hakeem Olajuwon) and Germany (Dirk Nowitzki).

The information got here in a staff assembly Tuesday, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver showing on a video display screen to ship the phrase.

“First of many,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone mentioned.

After the highest 5, the remainder of the voting was Dallas’ Luka Doncic, Portland’s Damian Lillard, New York’s Julius Randle, Rose, Utah’s Rudy Gobert, Washington’s Russell Westbrook, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and, tying for thirteenth, was the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Brooklyn’s James Harden and the Lakers’ LeBron James.

James bought one fifth-place vote — extending his streak to 18 years with not less than one vote within the MVP race.

Jokic‘s rise was meteoric, however not completely sudden after the way in which he performed lately. Even Kobe Bryant, again in 2019, mentioned he had challenged Jokic to fulfill his potential and win an MVP award.

Challenge accepted. Challenge met. And now Jokic has the trophy that Bryant gained in 2008.

“MVP! BEST PLAYER IN THE NBA!” Nuggets teammate Will Barton posted on Instagram.

“I couldn’t win it without you guys,” Jokic instructed his teammates when the phrase got here.

Jokic had a league-high 60 double-doubles and added 16 triple-doubles – second-most within the NBA behind solely triple-double king and former MVP Westbrook – this season. Jokic‘s scoring average jumped from 19.9 points per game last season to 26.4. He tied his career high with 10.8 rebounds per game and his average of 8.3 assists was just shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time season common (8.6) for a middle.

He shot 56% from the sphere and 39% from 3-point vary.

“The Denver Nuggets drafted me, it was an opportunity for me to become an NBA player,” Jokic mentioned. “I think I did a good job of using that opportunity.”

A yr after main the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals within the Walt Disney World bubble in Florida, Jokic steered his staff by a attempting season marked a rash of accidents, most notably to fellow star Jamal Murray, who tore his left ACL in April.

Amid all these accidents – not to point out a jampacked season the place nearly everybody bought some relaxation alongside the way in which – Jokic was a uncommon on a regular basis participant, an enormous man who logged huge minutes. He‘s the only player to start all of his team’s regular-season video games within the final two seasons, being on the ground for tip-off all 145 occasions. Others have additionally performed in each recreation, however nobody else has began all of them.

Including playoffs, Jokic has logged 5,766 minutes within the final two seasons. That’s almost 300 greater than anybody else; he‘s considered one of solely six gamers to eclipse 5,000 minutes in that span.

Despite that ever-changing solid round him, Jokic guided Denver to the No. 3 playoff seed within the West. Behind Jokic, the Nuggets went 13-5 after Murray tore his ACL on April 12 and he led Denver previous the Portland Trail Blazers within the first spherical of the playoffs.

And his numbers in opposition to the Blazers? Historic. He averaged 33 factors and 10.5 rebounds on 53% sho-oting from the sphere, 43% from 3-point vary and 92% from the free throw line – making him the primary participant in NBA historical past to common 30 factors and 10 rebounds with the lofty benchmarks of fifty% from the sphere, 40% from 3 and 90% from the foul line in a playoff sequence.

“Life’s about little moments,” Malone mentioned late within the common season. “And Nikola’s got about 56 moments where he’s shown he’s the MVP.”

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