What was known, yet unconfirmed, became official Wednesday evening: Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was named NBA MVP for the second consecutive season, becoming just the 13th player in league history to win it in back-to-back seasons.
Never one to be impressed with his accomplishments, Jokic said it would take time before his perspective on his place in history is settled.
“Now, I don’t think about (the awards), but probably when I’m old, fat and grumpy, I’m gonna remember, and I’m gonna tell my kids,” he told TNT via video chat from a horse stable.
Jokic made NBA history last season when he became the lowest draft pick (41st) to ever win the MVP. And then, to the chagrin of some in the NBA media establishment, he went and did it again to further entrench himself as one of the most dominant, unique players the league has ever seen.
At home in Serbia, Jokic was presented the award on Wednesday by Nuggets president Tim Connelly, coach Michael Malone, strength coach Felipe Eichenberger, assistant coach Ogi Stojakovic and director of PR Nick O’Hayre. All five flew to Serbia in recent days to surprise Jokic with the trophy. Typically private and protective of his space in the offseason, the Nuggets carefully orchestrated the event because of the unique circumstances.
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
As his horse pulled into the stable, Jokic was greeted by the contingent of Nuggets officials and revealed a side rarely seen from him.
“It was really emotional moment for me, of course,” Jokic said. “Nobody ever came here. I think it’s amazing.”
Nuggets governor Josh Kroenke, wearing a shirt adorned with a picture of a younger, overweight Jokic, was there, too.
— Mike Singer (@msinger) May 11, 2022
Jokic finished with 65 out of 100 first-place votes, 27 second-place votes, six third-place votes and two fourth-place votes. Joel Embiid finished second with 26 first-place votes, and Giannis Antetokounmpo had nine first-place votes to finish third overall.
The supremely skilled center — and one who has no trouble masquerading as a point guard — established career-highs of 27.1 points and 13.8 rebounds per game while also averaging nearly eight assists in lifting the Nuggets to 48 wins and their fourth consecutive playoff berth.
To underscore how surprising Jokic’s second consecutive MVP award is, consider that this season’s preseason GM survey didn’t even have Jokic in the top-six of MVP finishers. That list included Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic, Antetokounmpo, Embiid, James Harden and Steph Curry. The reigning MVP was nowhere to be found.
When asked at the end of the season about the potential for another MVP, Jokic said it’s something he never could’ve imagined.
“I never dream about it,” he said. “… It’s something that, probably, legacy – my name is always going to be there. But If I don’t get it, I’m not going to die. I’m just going to keep playing, keep trying to play the right way like I did my whole life.”
When a reporter asked how he’d revel if it indeed happened, Jokic pulled back the curtain a bit on his preferred celebration.
“Probably with some music, beer, friends around, family,” he said. “Like how you’re supposed to do probably.”
When he won the award last season, Jokic received the trophy in front of Nuggets fans ahead of Game 3 of their second-round series against Phoenix. But having lost in the first round to Golden State this season — partially a product of a healthy Warriors team seizing on an injured Nuggets squad — Jokic wasted little time in returning to his hometown of Sombor, Serbia. It afforded him the chance to celebrate with his family and those who saw his remarkable rise.
Given how little Jokic enjoys fanfare and attention, he probably preferred this year’s presentation to the last one.
At his MVP news conference last season, Jokic was asked whether he was relieved he wouldn’t have to answer questions about the award again.
“To be honest, yes,” he said with a smile.
Through all the fault of his own record-setting play, Jokic is the NBA MVP again, forever cemented in history among the game’s greatest all-time performers.