News just broke yesterday that Nikola Jokic has been voted the 2022 NBA MVP, securing back-to-back MVP honors. He will be officially honored in a ceremony on TNT momentarily.
Jokic joins an elite club of players to win consecutive MVPs, although it has happened quite a bit in recent years. The list of players:
- Jokic (2021-2022)
- Giannis (2019-2020)
- Steph Curry (2015-2016)
- LeBron (2009-2010, 2012-2013)
- Steve Nash (2005-2006)
- Tim Duncan (2002-2003)
- Michael Jordan (1991-1992)
- Magic Johnson (1989-1990)
- Moses Malone (1982-1983)
- Kareem (1971-1972, 1976-1977)
There are only three players to win three consecutive MVPs:
- Larry Bird (1984-1986)
- Wilt (1966-1968)
- Bill Russell (1961-1963).
That’s it. That’s the club Jokic has joined: Giannis, Steph, LeBron, Nash, Duncan, Jordan, Magic, Moses, Kareem, Bird, Wilt, Russell. Jokic truly is in elite company here.
Jokic’s 2022 season was historic: he was the first player ever to accumulate 2000+ points, 1000+ rebounds and 500+ assists in a single season. He was the first to average 25-13-6 in a season (he averaged 27-14-8. He was the first player to finish top 10 in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, and field goal percentage. And he set a league record for single-season PER.
My Hard Carry ratings have his 2022 season as the third-best since 1997, behind only CP3 in 2009 and LeBron in 2009.
Now, of course there are going to be plenty of naysayers who claim he shouldn’t have won because his team got bounced in 5 in the first round. But the Nuggets were also missing their second and third best players (Jamal Murray and Michael Porter). It’s hard to hold this against Jokic given that he had Will Barton and Aaron Gordon as his supporting cast in the playoffs.
No matter how great a player is, it’s almost impossible to overcome a lack of a supporting cast, especially when you’re going up against a team like the Warriors. Jokic may have been the best player on the floor in that series against Golden State, but the Warriors had the next 5 best players in the series: Steph, Poole, Draymond, Klay and Wiggins. Generally the team that has 5 of the 6 best players in the series is going to win the series. That’s just how it works. And the Warriors are currently the Championship favorites right now. I don’t really hold this against Jokic, because no one expected him to win that series against Golden State. The Nuggets had virtually no chance.
MVP is a regular season award. I know people hate that, but it is. And Jokic deserved to win it. He put up insane numbers on incredible efficiency and somehow led his team to 48 wins in the regular season. Without Jokic, that Nuggets team would’ve won like 15 games.
People also hate the fact that Jokic has won back-to-back MVPs while guys like Shaq and Kobe never did. Shaq and Kobe each only have one MVP award to their names. Shaq probably should have more than one MVP award to his name. I’ll give you that. But that’s not Jokic’s fault!
And I’ll be honest here, and this is not slander: Kobe is legitimately lucky to have even one MVP. The year he won it, 2008, it should’ve gone to LeBron. That year, LeBron won the scoring title (30ppg to Kobe’s 28.3). LeBron was #1 in PER (29.1) while Kobe was 8th (24.2). LeBron was more efficient (51.8% eFG to Kobe’s 50.3%). LeBron averaged more rebounds, more assists, more blocks and had the same amount of steals per game (1.8). LeBron had a total Box Plus/Minus of 10.9, best in the league, while Kobe ranked 7th in the league with a 5.9. LeBron ranked 6th in the league in Defensive Box Plus/Minus with a 2.6 while Kobe ranked just 49th with a 0.6 DBPM. LeBron ranked 1st in VORP with a 9.8, while Kobe was 3rd with a 6.3 VORP. LeBron had a +10.9 on/off plus/minus net differential, while Kobe was a +7.0.
Now, the main difference was that the Lakers won 57 games in 2008 and finished as the #1 seed in the West, while the Cavs won just 45 games and were the #4 seed in the East. But 2008 was also the season the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol, and Gasol really took that team to the next level. The only reason Kobe won it over LeBron was because Kobe’s team had a better record–and I think there was a large element of the NBA media that had decided it was “Kobe’s moment” to finally win MVP, and that LeBron still had to wait his turn.
Kobe didn’t deserve MVP in 2007, either. We know that your record matters a lot, and the Lakers were just 42-40 in 2007 while Dirk (the MVP that year) led the Mavs to a 67-15 record.
Probably the year that Kobe most deserved to win MVP was 2006, when he averaged 35 points a game. My Hard Carry stat rates Kobe’s 2006 season as the best of his career, and clearly better than the year Nash had in 2006. The difference was that the Lakers went 45-37 and the Suns went 54-28 that year. Still, I think Kobe should’ve won the MVP in 2006 over Nash. 9 games? Come on. Kobe’s stats were clearly superior to Nash’s. It’s not even like the Suns were the best team in the West that year, either: they were the #3 seed behind the Spurs (63 wins) and the Mavs (60 wins). And the Pistons over in the East won 64 games, so the Suns finished with the fourth-best record in the NBA in 2006. Kobe was robbed that year. Nash did not deserve to win back-to-back MVPs.
Look, at the end of the day, a lot of people are mad about Jokic winning MVP, but it’s a regular season award. Winning MVP does not mean “guaranteed to win the Championship.” In fact, since 2003, only 4 MVPs have gone on to win the Championship: Tim Duncan in 2003, LeBron in 2012 and 2013, and Steph in 2015. Dirk won MVP in 2007 and got bounced in the first round by an 8-seed, and nobody tries to discredit Dirk’s MVP. Sure, his team won 67 games in the regular season, but we can’t just act like Jokic isn’t deserving here. He absolutely is deserving. He can’t help the fact that Murray and Porter were injured most of the year including the playoffs.
All Jokic did was play ball, and the media gave him the award, and now people are mad at Jokic as if this is somehow his fault.
Jokic winning two MVP awards does not mean he’s a better player than Kobe or Shaq, and nobody is going to seriously argue that he is. People understand that there’s more to comparing players than simply tallying up their awards and championship rings–at least they should understand this.
Did Embiid deserve the award this year? I’d say he was deserving, but not more deserving than Jokic was. Look, Embiid played on a much, much better team than Jokic did. Embiid had James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris. Jokic would kill for a supporting cast like that.
Embiid is a phenomenal, MVP-level player. No doubt about that. But he wasn’t better than Jokic was this year, nor was Embiid more valuable to his team than Jokic was. Certainly the Sixers would’ve been hot garbage without Embiid, but the Nuggets would’ve been even worse.
It was a close race, in my view (although the voting figures, once released, may not reflect that). Embiid was incredible this season, but Jokic was simply a more deserving candidate for MVP.