Nikola Jokic has won the 2021-22 NBA MVP award, taking the league’s top individual honor for the second consecutive year, per ESPN. Jokic’s back-to-back MVP awards match the feat accomplished by fellow finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo during the 2018-19 and ’19-20 seasons. The third finalist, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, has never won the award.
Aside from assists, Jokic managed to improve upon his per-game averages in every major statistical category in the regular season. He finished with career highs in points (27.1), rebounds (13.8), blocks (0.9) and steals (1.5) per game. He also made a career-high 58.3 percent of his field goals, and while he did not match his career high in free throw or 3-point percentage, he did set highs in total free throws (379) and 3-pointers (97) made.
The race between Jokic, Embiid and Antetokounmpo was a fierce one. Embiid won the scoring title by averaging 30.6 points. Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks finished with the highest seed of the three, finishing third in the Eastern Conference with a 51-31 record. Embiid’s 76ers had the same record but finished fourth due to tiebreakers. Jokic’s Nuggets were a No. 6 seed in the West despite winning only three fewer games and were ousted in the first round by the Golden State Warriors.
All three MVP finalists had to overcome meaningful adversity to get their teams where they did. Embiid played the first half of the season without Ben Simmons, who was sitting out due to a trade request, and Antetokounmpo had to play out of position at center due to an injury suffered by Brook Lopez. But Lopez eventually returned, and the 76ers traded Simmons for James Harden. Jokic got no such relief. Star teammate Jamal Murray did not play a single game this season, and No. 3 option Michael Porter Jr. played only nine games. Jokic’s team might have had a worse record than the other two, but his ability to keep the Nuggets afloat without their second- and third-best players likely won him this trophy.
Jokic is the 15th player to win multiple MVP awards, joining Bob Pettit, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Antetokounmpo. He is the only Nugget to win an NBA MVP award, though Spencer Haywood won an ABA MVP award when the team was still known as the Denver Rockets.
With Murray and Porter injured, Denver never had a realistic chance at a championship this season, but Jokic managed to carry them into the playoffs in ways no other player likely could have. He’s not a traditional MVP in style or the standings, but the voters have spoken, and they have determined that he was the most valuable player of the 2021-22 NBA season.