Nikola Jokic was the 41st pick in the draft when he came to the NBA seven years ago. Today, by overwhelming consensus, it is No. 1.
The Nuggets Center was named the NBA Most Valuable Player for the 2020-2021 season, making it the lowest pick to win the award. “The Joker” will now be recognized alongside the greatest players in league history, something that seemed unlikely when in 2014 it became a surprise from Sombor, Serbia.
“To be honest, I didn’t even think I could be in the NBA,” Jokic admitted. “My goal when I started playing basketball in my country was to play in the Euroleague, because it was the closest major league to my country.”
I’ve done a little more.
Jokic was an overwhelming hero. He received 91 out of 101 votes for first place – 100 of them were from a global panel of journalists and hosts covering the league, and the other vote is a compilation of fan votes.
The fan vote was the exception: it was taken by Derek Rose of the New York Knicks who won the award in 2011, Rose taking home the only award.
Joel Embiid of Philadelphia came in second, followed by Stephen Curry of Golden State. 2019 and 2020 MVP Giannis Antetokounmue was fourth and Phoenix’s Chris Paul was fifth.
The previous record for the shortest pick to win the MVP award was Steve Nash and Antetokounmue who were the 15th picks in their drafts.
Now Greece is ceding bragging rights to Serbia – the fifth country outside the US to win the MVP award, joining Canada (Nash), Greece (Antitokonmo), Nigeria (Hakim Aliouane) and Germany (Dirk Nowitzki).
The news was released during the team meeting on Tuesday and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appeared on video to break the news.
“The first of many,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone.