The “process” has finally reached its most precious stage.
Joel Embiid, 29, of the Philadelphia 76ers is the 2023 NBA Most Valuable Player, beating Denver’s Nikola Jokić and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo by a comfortable margin.
The results of the league’s most sacred individual award were announced live on TNT on Tuesday night. The award is decided by a vote of 100 members of the media who cover the NBA.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Embiid said, during his televised interview with TNT’s Inside the NBA analysts, from the team’s hotel in Boston, where the Sixers are in the middle of a playoff series. in the second round against the Boston Celtics. He was mobbed by his teammates in the hotel ballroom after his name was announced, burying his face in his massive hands as they hugged him and chanted “MVP, MVP”.
Embiid, who was born in Cameroon, didn’t start playing basketball until he was 16, and is now a six-time NBA All-Star, won MVP for the first time in a career that has started with him missing the entirety of his first two seasons due to complications from a broken foot. That was followed by years of being the centerpiece of former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s “Trust the Process” campaign to slowly try to build a winner around him.
Embiid’s triumph comes after two straight seasons in which he was worthy of the award, but finished second to Jokić, the 2021 and 2022 NBA MVP who was trying to become the first player since Larry Bird in 1986 to win it three years away. following. Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell remain 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 like a life – my story. Where I’m from, how I got here and what it took to get here, that’s good.
The race was expected to be one of the tightest ever, with a poll of league voters showing a stalemate between Embiid and Jokic at the end of the season. Embiid won easily with 73 votes for first place and 25 seconds, as voters were swayed by his dominance, the tale of him winning his first prize, possibly dismissing Jokic as a three-time winner and watching Jokic miss several games at the course of the last two. weeks.
Embiid had 241 points (votes are weighted) ahead of Jokic, who collected 15 firsts and beat Antetokounmpo by collecting 52 seconds to Giannis’ 23.
Celtics’ Jayson Tatum was fourth and Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was an All-Star for the first time this season, was fifth.
This year, Embiid’s sheer dominance of the season was enough to overcome Jokić’s less flashy and analytically superior play.
A 7-foot player with exceptional reach, Embiid led the NBA with 33.1 points per game. It was the second consecutive season in which he was the league’s top scorer on average. He was also tied for ninth in rebounds per game (10.2) and seventh with 1.7 blocks. Embiid shot nearly 55% from the field (a career high), made one-third of his 3s and was an 86% shooter from the foul line in 66 games – just two shy of his career best.
Embiid joins Chamberlain (1966, 1967, 1968), Julius Erving (1981), Moses Malone (1983) and Allen Iverson (2001) as the Sixers to win MVP.
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“What I want people to remember is that anything is possible,” Embiid said. “For me, I started playing basketball when I was only 16, it’s hard. It’s hard to get there and to be able to be in that position. It obviously took a lot of hard work and a lot of luck. But you know, I just want people to remember that anything is possible, no matter what you do, as long as you believe in it.
Jokić, unlike Embiid, averaged “only” 24.5 points per game, but was tied for third in the league with Antetokounmpo in rebounds (11.8), fourth in assists (9.8) and shot 63% 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% shooting, and he also led the NBA with 29 triple-doubles.
Antetokounmpo of Greece won MVP in 2019 and 2020. He averaged a career-high 31.1 points on the NBA’s top regular-season team this time around. The last American-born player to win the MVP title was James Harden in 2018.
Embiid missed Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a sprained right knee, although the Sixers, led by 45 points from James Harden, beat the Celtics without him. Game 2 is Wednesday. He said “we’ll see” when TNT’s Ernie Johnson asked him if he wanted to perform.
The Sixers’ latest injury report can wait a minute. Celebration 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
To sum up Embiid’s career and 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 impossible task. But a good starting point to think about is that for all the natural talent Embiid possesses, his career path has been unique. “Not likely” is another way of saying it.
At the age of 16 in Cameroon, Embiid was invited to Luc Mbah a Moute’s basketball camp simply because he was tall. He didn’t even show up on the first day, opting instead to play video games with his younger brother. Embiid had played very little organized basketball at this time, believing that a career in volleyball was going to be his future. This first basketball camp led to another camp invitation, 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 rapid rise at Kansas that ended with Embiid becoming the third pick in the 2014 NBA draft, he missed his first two full professional seasons with a broken navicular bone. on the right foot. The Sixers, perhaps rightly so, were extremely cautious of Embiid once he finally hit the floor. Although Embiid hasn’t completely avoided the injury bug, he has appeared in 134 games combined over the past two seasons. Reaching the point where he plays enough games to be considered MVP was certainly not a given after the start of his NBA career. —Rich Hofmann
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How Embiid changed his game to become MVP
Perseverance and overcoming adversity is an important part of Embiid’s story. But the rise from perennial All-Star to MVP contender, a leap perhaps steeper than it looks on paper, is largely down to his dedication to the craft. Embiid has continued to improve and evolve throughout his career.
Instead of responding to calls to play like a traditional post-up big man, Embiid studied how the game was played at the highest levels. His main takeaway, which he came to alongside coach Drew Hanlen, was that he needed to gradually migrate to the perimeter. The elbow and “nail” areas around the free throw line have now become his forte. To get there, Embiid studied the shooting of big men like Dirk Nowitzki, in addition to wings like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
Embiid didn’t put himself in a box, which allowed him to become one of the most dominant players in the sport. The perimeter change and skill development over the years that transformed the 7-footer into a dominant face-up player has seen Embiid win the goalscoring titles over the past two seasons. It also sees the ground better than ever, compared to the low block. Embiid watches and studies a ton of NBA basketball, which undoubtedly helped him become the MVP. —hofman
No, we don’t talk enough about Joel Embiid
Jokic has bigger fish to fry
After a masterpiece of 39 points, 16 rebounds and five assists in the Nuggets’ 97-87 win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of their second-round series on Monday, Jokić said he plans to be by the pool, weather permitting, when the MVP announcement dropped on Tuesday.
His interest in whether he would win a third consecutive MVP award and become the fourth player in NBA history to do so?
“Zero,” insisted Jokic.
Jokić’s competitive fire is burning. Somewhere deep inside he probably wanted to join this elite company. He obviously had a solid record after averaging 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.8 assists (the most all-time for a center) during the regular season while setting a career high of 63.2% from the field and leading the Nuggets (6-1 in these playoffs) to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
But as Jokić continues to create a career that could one day place him in the discussion among the league’s all-time greats, an NBA championship, which would be the Nuggets’ first, would do more for his legacy than a third MVP trophy. —Nick Kosmider
The Suns basically forced Nikola Jokic to beat them. He did it with an MVP performance
Antetokounmpo’s production was not enough
For the first time in his 10-year career, Antetokounmpo scored more than 30 points per game in one 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 a player had averaged at least 30 points, 11 rebounds and five assists per game in a season since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1973 and only the sixth time in NBA history.
To go along with his historic individual numbers, Antetokounmpo also 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, who has started just 19 games this season and played just 33 games overall.
But neither Antetokounmpo’s individual success nor the Bucks’ team success seemed to resonate with voters this season, as the Bucks’ two-time NBA MVP (2019, 2020) finished third in voting behind Embiid and Jokić for a second consecutive season. —Eric Take
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(Photo: Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)