From No 41 to No 1: Nikola Jokic becomes lowest-drafted player to win NBA MVP

Nikola Jokic was selected with the 41st draft pick when he entered the NBA seven years ago. 现在, by overwhelming consensus, he’s No 1.

The Nuggets’ big man was revealed on Tuesday as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for 2020-21, making him by far the lowest draft pick ever to win the award. “The Joker” now has his name etched alongside the greatest players in league history, which surely seemed unlikely when he was that unheralded prospect out of Sombor, Serbia in 2014.

“To be honest, I didn’t even think I would be in the NBA,” Jokic said. “My goal when I started to play basketball back home, it was playing in Euroleague because that was kind of the closest top league to my country.”

Jokic was the runaway winner, getting 91 的 101 first-place ballots cast – 100 of them from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the league, the other being an aggregate first-place ballot compiled from fan voting.

That fan vote was the outlier: It went to 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks, the only vote Rose got.

Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid was second, Golden State’s Stephen Curry was third, 2019 和 2020 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee was fourth and Phoenix’s Chris Paul was fifth.

“It’s a big accomplishment, but it’s something that like I said to the guys, it’s not just me,” Jokic said. “I came here six years ago and I was growing, the organization was growing, the coaching staff was growing, the players next to me were growing. I couldn’t do it by myself. It’s an individual award, but it’s the effort of everybody.”

The previous record-holders for lowest draft picks who became MVPs were Steve Nash and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who were both chosen 15th overall. Antetokounmpo won the MVP award each of the last two seasons.

Greece now cedes the bragging rights to Serbia – the fifth nation outside of the US to claim an MVP, joining Canada (Nash), 希腊 (Antetokounmpo), Nigeria (Hakeem Olajuwon) and Germany (Dirk Nowitzki).

The news came in a team meeting Tuesday, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver appearing on a video screen to deliver the word.

“First of many,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. He wore a T-shirt Tuesday night with some of the knocks that Jokic has heard over the years, including “Can’t Jump,” “Flopper” and “Poor Defender.” The back of the shirt told a different story: “MVP. Joke’s On You,“ 它说.

Jokic’s rise was meteoric, but not totally unexpected after the way he played in recent years. Even Kobe Bryant, back in 2019, said he had challenged Jokic to fulfill his potential and win an MVP award.

“MVP! BEST PLAYER IN THE NBA!” Nuggets teammate Will Barton posted on Instagram.

“I couldn’t win it without you guys,” Jokic told his teammates when the word came through that he had won the award.

Jokic had a league-high 60 double-doubles and added 16 triple-doubles, the second-most in the NBA behind only triple-double king and former MVP Westbrook this season. Jokic’s scoring average jumped from 19.9 points per game last season to 26.4. He tied his career high with 10.8 rebounds per game and his average of 8.3 assists was just shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time season average (8.6) for a center.

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