“Process” finally reached its most prestigious level.
Joel Embiid, 29, of the Philadelphia 76ers, beat out Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo for the 2023 NBA Most Valuable Player by a comfortable margin.
The results for the league’s most sacred individual award were announced Tuesday night live on TNT. The award is determined by a poll of 100 media members covering the NBA.
Embiid said during his televised interview with TNT’s Inside the NBA analysts from the team hotel in Boston. Teammates mobbed him in the hotel ballroom after his name was announced, burying his face in his massive hands as they hugged him and chanted “MVP, MVP.”
Born in Cameroon, Embiid, who didn’t start playing basketball until he was 16, is now a six-time NBA All-Star who missed his first two games and won the MVP for the first time in a career. Seasons due to complications from a broken bone in his leg. The years that followed were the centerpiece of former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s “trust the process” campaign, trying to slowly build a winner around him.
Embiid’s win comes after two straight seasons in which he was eligible for the award but finished second to Jokic, the 2021 and 2022 NBA MVP, trying to become the first player since Larry Bird in 1986 to win it three consecutive years. Wilt Chamberlain and Phil Russell are the only other players to win three consecutive MVPs.
“I’ve been through a lot,” Embiid said. “I’m not just talking about basketball, I’m talking about everything as a life — my story. Where I’m from, how I got here, what I took to be here, it’s great.
The race was expected to be one of the closest ever, with league voter polls showing a dead heat between Embiid and Jokic late in the season. Embiid won easily with 73 first-place votes and 25 seconds as voters were distracted by his dominance as he won his first award, perhaps dethroning Jokic as a three-time winner and seeing Jokic miss several games in the last two. weeks.
Embiid was 241 points ahead of Jokic, who had 15 firsts and beat Antetokounmpo with 52 seconds to Giannis’ 23.
The Celtics’ Jayson Tatum was fourth and Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a first-time All-Star this season, was fifth.
This year, Embiid’s season of absolute dominance was enough to overcome Jokic’s less flashy, analytically better game.
A 7-footer with excellent range, Embiid led the NBA in scoring with 33.1 points per game. This is the second highest streak in the league by average. He was tied for ninth in rebounds per game (10.2) and tied for seventh with 1.7 blocks. Embiid shot nearly 55 percent from the field (technically a career high), made a third of his 3s and was an 86 percent shooter from the foul line in 66 games — two of the best short stretches of his career.
Embiid joins Chamberlain (1966, 1967, 1968), Julius Erving (1981), Moses Malone (1983) and Allen Iverson (2001) as six MVP winners.
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“I want people to remember that anything is possible,” Embiid said. “For me, I started playing basketball at 16 and it’s hard. It’s hard to make it and to be in this position. It obviously took a lot of work and a lot of luck. But you know, people have to remember that whatever you do, anything is possible as long as you believe in it. I like.
Jokić, in contrast to Embiid, “only” averages 24.5 points per game, but is tied with Antetokounmpo in the league in rebounds (11.8), fourth-down assists (9.8) and a ridiculous 63 percent from the field. The Serbian center is the only player to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists on at least 60 percent shooting, and he leads the NBA with 29 triple-doubles.
Antetokounmpo, who hails from Greece, won the MVP in 2019 and 2020. He’s averaging an NBA-best 31.1 points this season. James Harden was the last American player to win the MVP in 2018.
Embiid missed Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals despite James Harden’s 45 points as the Sixers beat the Celtics without him. Game 2 is Wednesday. “We’ll see,” TNT’s Ernie Johnson said when asked if he would play.
The Sixers’ latest injury report can wait a minute. Celebrating should also be part of the process.
Why Joel Embiid is the MVP, and the rest of my NBA awards votes
Embiid: An unlikely MVP
Summing up Embiid’s career, how the 29-year-old big man got to the point where he was voted the most valuable player in the best basketball league on the planet is an improbable feat. But a good place to start reflecting is that while Embiid has all the natural talent, his career curve is unique. “Impossible” is another way.
As a 16-year-old in Cameroon, Embiid was invited to Luc Mba a Moute’s basketball camp because of his height. He didn’t even show up for the first day, choosing instead to play video games with his younger brother. Embiid played very little organized basketball at the time, thinking that a career in volleyball was going to be his future. That initial basketball camp led to another camp invite, and eventually, Mbah a Moute arranged for him to play high school basketball in Florida. At the time, Embiid knew almost no English.
After a quick rise at Kansas, Embiid was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, only to miss his entire first two professional seasons due to a broken navicular bone in his right foot. The Sixers, perhaps rightly so, were very cautious with Embiid once he finally made it to the floor. While Embiid hasn’t completely avoided the injury bug, he’s appeared in 134 combined games over the past two seasons. Certainly not given how his NBA career has started for him to play enough games to be in MVP consideration. —Rich Hoffman
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How Embiid Turned His Game into an MVP
Perseverance and overcoming adversity is an important part of Embiid’s story. But the rise from perennial All-Star to MVP candidate, perhaps a steeper jump than it appears on paper, is due to his dedication to his craft. Embiid continues to improve in his career.
Instead of heeding calls to play like a traditional post big man, Embiid studied how the game was played at the highest levels. His main point coming in with coach Drew Hanlon was that he had to gradually move to the perimeter. The elbow and “claw” areas around the free-throw line have now become his sweet spot. To get there, Embiid studied shooting big men like Dirk Nowitzki in addition to wings like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
Embiid doesn’t put himself in a box, which has allowed him to become one of the most dominant players in the game. A shift to the perimeter and skill development that has transformed the 7-footer into a dominant face-up player over the years has allowed Embiid to win scoring titles over the past two seasons. Compared to the lower block, he sees the floor better than ever. Embiid watches and studies a ton of NBA basketball, which undoubtedly helped him become the MVP. —Hoffman
No, we haven’t talked about Joel Embiid enough
Jocic has bigger fish to fry
After a 39-point, 16-rebound, five-assist masterpiece in the Nuggets’ 97-87 win in Game 2 of their second-round series against the Phoenix Suns on Monday, Jokic said he plans to stay by the pool, weather permitting. When the MVP announcement came Tuesday.
His interest in finding out if he will win a third straight MVP award and become only the fourth player in NBA history to win one?
“Zero,” Jokic insisted.
Jokic’s competitive fire burns hot. Somewhere deep down, he probably wanted to join that elite company. He had a strong regular season average of 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.8 assists (all-time for a center). playoffs) for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
But as Jokic continues to script a career that could one day put him in the discussion among the league’s all-time greats, an NBA championship, a first for the Nuggets, will do more for his legacy than a third MVP trophy. —Nick Kosmider
The Suns basically forced Nikola Jokic to beat them. He did so with an MVP performance
Antetokounmpo’s production has been inadequate
For the first time in his 10-year career, Antetokounmpo scored more than 30 points per game in a season. He finished the season with 31.1 points per game, to go along with 11.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game. It was the first time since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1973 to average at least 30 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in a single season and the sixth time in NBA history.
To go along with his historic personal numbers, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to the league’s best record. The Bucks have the most wins in the NBA despite the team’s second-best player, Khris Middleton, starting just 19 games and playing in 33 total games this season.
But neither Antetokounmpo’s individual success nor the Bucks’ team success resonated with voters this season. —Eric Tack
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(Photo: Dustin Chatloff / Getty Images)