DENVER – It’s no joke – Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has been voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for a second straight season, the 13th player to win the league’s top individual award in back-to-back seasons.
The news had been expected since Monday, when ESPN first reported Jokic was set to repeat as the league’s MVP after leading the Denver Nuggets to another playoff appearance despite the team missing its other two top players for most of the season, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
The announcement was made on TNT at the start of pregame coverage ahead of Wednesday's games.
Jokic was notified of his win after he had been out racing horses at the stables in Serbia he trains at. He came back from training to find Mike Malone, Tim Connelly and Josh Kroenke along with his family members to greet him. Video showed Jokic giving them long embraces.
Surprise in Sombor✈️🇷🇸 We flew to Serbia to surprise the BACK-TO-BACK MVP! And, wow, this moment was special. pic.twitter.com/aFvIEDgnSj— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) May 11, 2022
"I don't think about it now. But when I'm old, fat, and grumpy, hopefully I'm going to remember, and tell my kids back in the day I was really good at playing basketball," Jokic told TNT's Ernie Johnson.
Jokic called winning his second straight MVP award and the way he learned about his win "a really emotional moment" for him, especially with his head coach and Nuggets brass there. And he said it meant a lot to him to be in the company of the 12 other back-to-back winners, especially coming up as a boy who was not thinking about playing basketball, but rather about harness horse racing.
He cracked jokes about his dog dying (it was not) when it made noise off camera and about Shaquille O'Neal not winning back-to-back MVPs, and said he had always looked up to players like Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge and Boris Diaw — players he said were perfect idols and not flashy.
"If it's not me, who is it?" Jokic asked if he considered himself a long shot coming into the league, especially to win two MVP awards. "There's no way I'd come to the NBA and play basketball from this city and this stable. And now I'm playing basketball in the best league in the world and playing on a high level. So, I think it's pretty remarkable just to be in the NBA and did what we did as the Denver Nuggets. I think it's pretty historical."
"I think it's something I will look up when I'm older and say we did a really, really tough thing, and we did a great thing," Jokic added.
Jokic, 27, averaged career highs of 27.1 points and 13.8 rebounds per game this season and was the first player in league history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season. Jokic also averaged 7.9 assists per game, which was among the top 10 in the league.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was the last player to win back-to-back MVPs doing so in the 2018-19 and 1029-20 seasons. He and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid were the other two finalists.
Jokic received 65 first-place votes from the panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. Embiid finish in second with 26 first-place votes, while Antetokounmpo received nine first-place votes.
“I know that I’m very biased, I admit it wholeheartedly – the MVP isn’t even a competition,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said earlier this year of Jokic. “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.”
The second MVP award has most thinking the Nuggets will try to sign Jokic to a supermax extension this offseason, which would pay him more than $250 million over a five-year contract starting in the 2023-24 season. He is already slated to make $32.4 million next season.
Jokic made his fourth straight All-Star team and was a starter for the Western Conference, as were Embiid and Antetokounmpo for the Eastern Conference.
He led the injury-plagued Nuggets to a 48-34 regular season record and a sixth seed in the NBA Playoffs, finishing with his best-ever field goal percentage and career highs in rebounds, steals, blocks and points per game.
The Nuggets fell to the Golden State Warriors in five games in the first round of the playoffs, but Jokic averaged 31 points, 5.8 steals and 13.2 rebounds per game in the series.
“I don’t know what else you can say about Nikola at this point,” Malone said in a statement after the league announced Jokic's win. “He’s consistently improved his game, he’s consistently proven people wrong when they doubt him and he’s consistently the best player on the floor night in and night out. I’ve said it many times before, I’m extremely grateful to coach Nikola Jokić and just as grateful for the bond that we’ve built off the court in our seven years together.”
“To watch Nikola develop into one of the few back-to-back MVPs this league has ever seen has been truly incredible,” said Connelly, the Nuggets' president of basketball operations. “it’s indicative of who Nikola is as a person and a basketball player - hard working, extremely motivated and dedicated to bettering himself and all of his teammates any way he can. We couldn’t be happier for Nikola and his entire family and support system; without them this day isn’t possible.”
“Nikola is an incredible player and an incredible person and we couldn’t be prouder to have him represent our organization,” said Kroenke, the team's president. “He is everything the MVP should be about, a truly selfless leader who makes everyone around him better and a tireless work ethic that has made him one of the best basketball players in the entire world. To earn this award in back-to-back years shows how special he is and we’re grateful to have him in a Nuggets uniform.”