Nikola Jokic has won the MVP award for the second successive season, according to widespread reports, with a formal coronation expected at some point this week.
Jokic, who is spending time back in his homeland Serbia, is also understood to have heard the news on Monday prior to it being formally reported by ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski
Once formally confirmed by the NBA, it will mean that the Denver Nuggets center becomes just the 15th player to win the award more than once and the second consecutive European to win the award back-to-back after Giannis Antetokounmpo did in 2019 and 2020.
Milwaukee Bucks superstar and reigning NBA Finals MVP Antetokounmpo and NBA scoring champion Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers were the other two finalists for this year’s award.
Jokic had a career year, as he averaged personal highs of 27.1 points and 13.8 rebounds per game. He also averaged 7.9 assists and became the first player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season.
It’s also worth noting he led Denver to a 48-34 record without the team’s other two best offensive players to help him. Michael Porter only managed nine games after struggling with a back problem and point guard Jamal Murray missed the entire season recovering from a torn ACL.
Required to carry the load night in and out, the big man from Sombor, Serbia, answered the call and guided the Nuggets to a 48-win season. They earned the No 6 seed in the West, before losing in five games to the Golden State Warriors in the opening round of the playoffs.
“It’s just remarkable what he’s done,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone recently said of Jokic. “I know that I’m very biased, I admit it wholeheartedly – the MVP isn’t even a competition. There’s other great players, I’m not saying they’re not great players, but what Nikola Jokic has done this year, with this team, with everything that we’ve had to go through, is incredible. He was good last year and he’s even better this year.”
The award is likely the start of a huge offseason for Jokic, who is eligible for a supermax extension that could guarantee him nearly $254 million over five seasons starting with 2023-24. He’ll make $32.4 million next season.
“There’s nothing more important” than keeping Jokic, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly recently said.
The other players to win two in a row include Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, LeBron James (twice), Steve 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 in three straight seasons.
Next year, Jokic will have his chance at a three-peat as well.
Known for his pinpoint passing as much as his soft touch, Jokic finished with a league-leading 19 triple-doubles. The 41st pick of the 2014 draft now has 76 in his career, which trails only Chamberlain (78) among centers.
After being knocked out of the playoffs – he averaged 31 points, 13.2 rebounds – Jokic was asked how he might celebrate should he win MVP.
“Probably with some music, beer, friends around, family,” he said. “Like how you’re supposed to do probably.
“But if I don’t get it, I’m not going to die. I’m just going to keep playing, keep trying to play the right way like I did my whole life.”
There was a time when the Jokic was maligned for his game. More specifically, his defense and not being able to jump. His once-pudgy frame – Spurs coach Gregg Popovich good-naturedly ribbed him about it – has more strength to it.
He sees the court with the clarity of a point guard and has an arsenal of shots that includes smooth baby hooks around the rim and a soft 3-point touch.
Popovich had the apropos answer when asked if it was more important to take away Jokic’s shot attempts or passes: “I don’t think anybody has figured that out,” he said. “He’s a great one.”
New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said: “If anyone is jogging, he’s going to make you pay for that. If you are out of position or mistake on a cut, he’ll make you pay for that. Terrific player.”
Jokic cares immensely about winning – games, not hardware. Last season when he won, he averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 boards and 8.3 assists. This season, he took his game to another level in making his fourth straight All-Star team.
“If that’s enough, it’s enough,” he said. “If not, you cannot control that.”
The rush of live NBA Playoffs games continues on Sky Sports this week – see the list of games here and subscribe to watch the live action.