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Nikola JokicDENVER, COLORADO – JUNE 01: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets leaves the court after their double overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers during Game Five of their Western Conference first-round playoff series at Ball Arena on June 1, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo : Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

It was only fitting that the NBA produced arguably the most unexpected Most Valuable Player winner in its history in a season unlike any other. Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy after being named the NBA’s MVP for the 2020-21 season Tuesday.

Jokic makes history

Jokic, a second-round pick selected 41st overall by the Nuggets in the 2014 NBA Draft, is the lowest-drafted player to receive this prestigious honor except for three-time MVP and Hall of Famer Moses Malone, who was not even selected in the NBA Draft. 

He is the first Serbian player to capture the MVP crown and the sixth international player to land the award, joining Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, and Giannis Antetokounmpo in that esteemed list.

Jokic was the runaway MVP winner, receiving 91 first-place votes and earning 971 total points from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters and the NBA MVP Award fan vote, making for 101 ballots. Philadelphia 76ers star center Joel Embiid finished in second place with 586 points, followed by former MVP winners Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 453 and 348 points, respectively. Coming in fifth place was Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, who nabbed 139 points.

Curry and Embiid might have been the more popular choices for the MVP crown, but Jokic’s play this season convinced voters that he was the right person for the award. He posted career-high averages in points (26.4 ppg), rebounds (10.8 rpg), and assists (8.3 apg), accomplishing those impressive numbers while playing in the entire 72-game season, a feat that only 11 players managed to achieve in this pandemic-shortened campaign.

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Availability and production the key for Jokic’s MVP campaign

Jokic’s availability for Denver this season proved to be crucial given the injury problems that plagued the Nuggets this campaign. Even with Jamal Murray, Will Barton, and PJ Dozier sidelined, the Nuggets continued to steamroll with Jokic at the helm, even reaching the second round of the playoffs after ousting the Portland Trail Blazers in a thrilling six-game series in the opening round.

With this top individual honor, Jokic cemented his status as one of the best big men to ever play the game as he became the first center since Shaquille O’Neal in the 2000 season to win the league’s MVP award. 

Make no mistake about it though, Jokic is no Shaq as he is revolutionizing the center position in ways the league has never seen before.

Jokic finished third in the NBA in assists this season with 599 dimes and was sixth in the assists per game department (8.3 apg). He joins Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain as the only two players 6-foot-10 or taller to average at least seven assists per ballgame. 

Jokic has also proven to be one of the best shooting big men in the NBA ever. He shot 56.6 percent from the field this season, including 38.8 percent from beyond the arc and 86.8 percent from the foul line. The sky’s definitely the limit for Jokic, an MVP unlike any other.


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