Nikola Jokic was selected with his 41st draft pick when he came to the NBA seven years ago.
Now, by big consensus, it ranks 1st.
The Nuggets big man was announced on Tuesday as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player of 2020-21, making it the lowest-ranked contestant to win the award. Now the Joker’s name is included in the list of the greatest players in the history of the league, he was very unlikely to leave the Serbian city of Sombor in 2014.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I would be in the NBA,” Jokich said. “When I started playing basketball at home, it was playing in the Euroleague because it was the closest major league to my country.”
He did a little more work.
Jokic was the runaway winner, receiving 91 of the 101 first-place ballots – 100 from a global group of sports authors and broadcasters covering the league, while others received a total first-place ballot from fan votes.
The vote of these fans was overwhelming: NBA MVP Derrick Rose from the 2011 New York Knicks voted for Rose, only Rose did.
Philadelphia representative Joel Embiid was second, Golden State representative Stephen Curry was third, 2019 and 2020 MVP representative Jannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee was fourth, and Phoenix representative Chris Paul was fifth.
The lowest call record holders with an MVP were Steve Nash and Jannis Antetokounmpo, who finished 15th overall. Antetokounmpo has won an MVP award in each of the last two seasons.
Greece has now joined Serbia – Canada (Nash), Greece (Antetokounmpo), Nigeria (Hakeem Olajuwon) and Germany (Dirk Novitsky), giving the right to brag to a fifth country outside the US in terms of MVP claims.
The news surfaced at a team meeting on Tuesday, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appearing on video to deliver the speech.
“First and foremost,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone.
The remaining votes after the strong five were Luca Donchichi of Dallas, Damian Lillard of Portland, Julius Randl of New York, Rose, Rudy Hobert of Utah, Russell Westbrook of Washington, Ben Simmons of Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Clippers in 13th place. was. Xavi Leonard, James Harden of Brooklyn and LeBron James of the Lakers.
James finished fifth in one – with at least one vote in the MVP race – extending his series to 18 years.
Jokich’s rise was meteoric, but not a surprise after the style he played in recent years. Even Kobe Bryant said he encouraged Jokich to put his potential to work in 2019 and win the MVP award.
Challenge accepted. Challenge met. And now Jokich has the trophy that Bryant won in 2008.
“MVP! Best player in the NBA!” Nuggets teammate Will Barton posted on Instagram.
“I couldn’t have won without you guys,” Jokich told his teammates when the word came out.
Jokich has averaged 60 doubles in the championship and added 16 doubles – the only three-time double-double in the NBA and second only to former MVP Westbrook – this season. Jokich’s average was up from 19.9 points per game last season to 26.4. He tied his career with 10.8 rebounds per game, and his average 8.3-goal assist was simply shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s average season average (8.6) for the center.
He hit 56% from the field and 39% from the 3rd point.
“The a Nuggets called me, it was an opportunity for me to be an NBA player,” Jokich said. “I think I did a good job of taking that opportunity.”
A year after taking the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals at the Walt Disney World Bubble in Florida, Jokic led the team through a difficult season, with a rush of injuries, especially from fellow star Jamal Murray, who tore the left ACL in April.
Among those injuries – not to mention a busy season where everyone rests a bit on the road – Jokich was a rare everyday player, a big man who recorded big moments. He is the only player to have started his team’s all-season career in the last two seasons, making 145 appearances. Others have played in every game, but others haven’t started it all.
Excluding playoff games, Jokich has scored 5,766 minutes in the last two seasons. That’s almost 300 more than the others; he is one of six players held for 5,000 minutes during that time.
Despite the changing content around him, Jokich put a in 3rd place in the playoffs in the West. Behind Jokich, the Nuggets went 13-5, Murray tore the ACL on April 12 and he beat a in the first round of the playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers.
And his numbers against the Blazers? Historical. He averaged 53% from the field, 43% from 3rd point and 92% from the penalty spot, 92% on average 33 points and 10.5 rebounds – which is an average of 30 points and 10 rebounds in NBA history. became the first player to achieve an average performance. 50% from the field, 40% from 3 and 90% from playoff series fouls.
“Life is about small moments,” Malone said at the end of his usual season. “And Nicola has 56 minutes, where he showed he’s the MVP.”