DENVER – Nikola Jokic was named the most valuable player of the National Basketball Association on Tuesday.
Jokic, also known as “Big Honey” and “The Joker,” won the NBA’s MVP award over the other two finalists, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. The Athletic first reported news that Jokic would be the MVP. League sources originally confirmed the news to Denver7 early Tuesday afternoon, and the Nuggets confirmed it at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.
The NBA said Jokic received 91 of the 101 first-place votes.
With the first Kia NBA MVP Award of his career, Nikola Jokić becomes the first player to earn the honor as a member of the @nuggets. He received 91 of the 101 first-place votes.— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) June 8, 2021
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Jokic’s selection makes him the lowest-ever draft pick to win the league MVP and the first-ever Nugget to win the league’s top individual award. He was picked at No. 41 in the 2014 draft.
“I’m so happy and respect so much the hard work and dedication that he’s put in to reach this point,” Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said in a statement. “I’ve been lucky enough to coach Nikola his entire career, and to see his growth from a second-round pick trying to learn the NBA to a perennial All-Star and now the MVP is truly extraordinary. He deserves this honor and I don’t take for granted getting to coach a player, and more importantly a person like Nikola.”
Jokic has blossomed in recent years and at age 26 had the best season of his career, transforming into a player compared to both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson at times during the ongoing playoffs.
He started all 72 games this regular season and totaled career highs in minutes per game, field goal attempts, three-pointers, free-throw percentage, assists and points.
He scored 26.4 points per game – nearly 6 ½ more per game than he did last season – and averaged 8.3 assists per game, the second-most ever for a center in a season, behind Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 8.6 per game in the 1967-68 season.
Jokic also led the league in double-doubles and triple-doubles this year. Jokic is the first center to win the MVP award since Shaquille O'Neal in the 1999-2000 season.
He was the center point of a Nuggets team that dealt with injuries all year to its top players – particularly when guard Jamal Murray tore his ACL mid-April, and led the team in points, assists and rebounds per game, leading the Nuggets to a third-place Western Conference finish in the regular season.
In the playoffs so far, Jokic has shown why many considered him to be the league MVP. He’s averaging more than 31 points per game, 10 rebounds per game and 4.3 assists per game so far through seven. Jokic scored 22 points in Denver’s loss Monday night against Phoenix in the opening game of the second round.
Michael Porter Jr. had also been named a finalist for most improved player but was beat out by former Nugget Jerami Grant, now with the Pistons.
Jokic is the third player in NBA history to average more than 26 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for a season, joining Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson. Jokic was named as an All-Star Game starter for the first time this year and was named Western Conference Player of the month twice.
“What an amazing accomplishment for an amazing individual. Nikola has worked tirelessly to become the player that he is and we are unbelievably lucky to have him leading our franchise,” said Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly. “He is an elite individual on and off the court who is surrounded by a loving and supportive family that have helped make this day possible.”