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Nuggets star Nikola Jokic has been named the NBA Finals MVP

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic has been named the NBA Finals MVP

Ohm YoungmisukESPN staff writerJune 12, 2023, 11:14 p.m. ET6 minutes to read

DENVER – Nikola Jokic may not have won his third consecutive MVP award this season, but he’s still the finalist with the Most Valuable Player award.

In addition to earning the championship he coveted, Jokic was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player after the Denver Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat 94-89 in Game 5 at Ball Arena.

Jokic finished Miami with 28 points, 16 rebounds and four assists to help the Nuggets win their first NBA title. Like every opponent the Nuggets faced this postseason, the Heat had very few answers for Jokic.

When asked how it feels to be an NBA champion, Jokic told ESPN’s Lisa Salters on the court: “It’s good. It’s good. Mission accomplished, we can go home now.”

Prior to this tournament, the 28-year-old Jokic was already considered one of the best players in the league. But now that he’s a championship and Finals MVP winner, an NBA celebrity said that catapults the Serbian big man into a different layer of the stratosphere.

“It puts him in the legendary category for what he did statistically in the Finals,” Isiah Thomas, a former Detroit Pistons great, told ESPN. “I don’t know if anyone has had a statistical experience in the NBA Finals as a center as he has in those categories.”

After two years of arguing over who should have been the MVP in the regular season between Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thomas said it was hard to argue about who was the best player in the world.

Hey, now that you and your team are the champions [wins the title]You’re the best player and the best team,” said Thomas, the MVP of the 1990 Finals. And that may not be the case [the next] five years. But when you talk about like now, the best player now is him. And the best team is the Denver Nuggets.

“When you’re a champion, that’s all that matters. If you can say, ‘I’m the best in the world,’ even if it’s just for one day, or even if it’s for a year, what a great moment for yourself, and then it gets stamped.” And everyone admits it. There is no greater feeling.”

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Jokic is the lowest-drafted player (41st overall in the second round in 2014) to win Finals MVP honors, surpassing Dennis Johnson, who was drafted 29th overall in 1979 according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. He also became the third second round pick to win the Finals MVP award, joining Willis Reed and Johnson (Moses Malone won the 1983 Finals MVP award with the Philadelphia 76ers but has not been drafted by an NBA team since beginning his career in ABA with the Utah Stars).

Jokic joined Antetokounmpo, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only foreign-born players to claim the Finals award. And he did that by putting together one of the best races of all time. He averaged three triples most of the postseason leading up to the Finals. He had 10 triple-doubles during this run, with eight in a 12-game span.

Jokic delivered some eye-catching performances, including 53 points and 11 rebounds in Game 4 over the Phoenix Suns in the second round and became the first player to have a 30-20-10 triple-double in Finals history with 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists. In Game 3 in Miami.

“A great player ever,” Phoenix’s Kevin Durant said after Jokic averaged 34.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 10.3 assists against the Suns. “We will go down as one of the all-time great touchdown centers in basketball.”

Jokic eliminated Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards in the first round, beat Devin Booker of Phoenix and Durant in the second round, and swept the Lakers’ LeBron James and Anthony Davis – who beat Jokic and the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals in 2020 – in the Conference Finals before Submitting Jimmy Butler and the Heat in five matches.

Nikola Jokic is the lowest-scoring player (41st in Round 2 in 2014) to be named the NBA Finals MVP.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

“I know how great he is,” James said of Jokic after the Nuggets eliminated the Lakers. “I know how great Jokic is. There are some guys in this league who play the game a certain way, a certain way I like to play the game too, and he’s one of them where you’re always off balance when you’re guarding like that because of his ability to score and rebound and shoot and see plays before they happen.” .

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“There aren’t a lot of guys in our league like that. So you already knew you were going to be up against a monster once the series started, and it’s not just about his game. Everyone gets caught up in his stats but I don’t think much of him. People talk about him.” [the cerebral part] who played it. It may not have been talked about, because many people don’t understand it, but I do. It’s special.”

As James hinted, Jokic found himself succumbing to the debate over whether he should win a third consecutive MVP award last season, which would have put him in rare company alongside only Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

This season, Jokic seemed tired of the guesswork surrounding the MVP race between himself, Embiid and Antetokounmpo. After winning back-to-back MVPs, Jokic received criticism from those who didn’t think he was the best player in the NBA.

It got louder as pundits pointed to accusations of statistical stuffing while Jokic totaled 29 triple-doubles in the regular season. Some have suggested that Jokic is this generation’s Steve Nash, a first-generation passer who had flashy stats but was not the best player of his generation and was never able to win a championship.

Jokic often closes MVP questions by saying he has no interest in winning the award and is only interested in leading his team to the championship. But after Jokic collected his 100th career triple-double for the Houston Rockets on Feb. 28, the center admitted he heard some criticism about why he didn’t deserve to win the MVP award again.

“When you’re a consistent filler, it’s easy to tell,” Jokic said, tongue in cheek, when asked about the triple-double landmark.

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When asked if he had ever heard of being called a stats officer, Jokic cracked, “Yes, of course. That’s right.”

The race has been put forward by some as an excuse as to why Embiid wasn’t named MVP before winning it for the first time this season. (Jokic finished second in this year’s voting.)

Nuggets coach Michael Malone could not stand by and not defend Jokic.

After Jokic led the Nuggets to a sweep of the Lakers, Malone was asked what Jokic had been showing up so far in his tears during the postseason.

“I think it shows others on a national level that he’s real,” Mallon said last month. “Like what he’s doing is real. The MVP of the game is real. The triple-doubles are real. The silly novels this year are silly and a little ignorant. I think Nicola’s been through 3 rounds now as he’s averaging triple-doubles in the playoffs.”

“Did you see any steadfast stuffing in there? I’m serious. Enough of the silliness. The guy’s a great player. Give him my utmost respect. Stop chopping him off at his knees.”

For Jokic, winning the Finals MVP award is just the latest device he’s earned for his sparkling play. But it happened with the hardware win he really wanted – the Larry O’Brien Cup.

Jokic has always made it clear that he is all about the team and winning any individual awards.

Teammate Jamal Murray thinks Jokic will only get better. The opposing defenses tried to throw everything at Jokic with little success.

“He’s been doing it for a long time, on all levels,” said Murray. “He won his first MVP, and his numbers are even better [during] The second best player. And his numbers are better now.

“I think there’s more to come, actually, than Jok. We haven’t seen a side of Jok we’ll see where he can just be pure dominance all the way through, the whole game, even more so than he was.”