LeBron James in 'crazy' NBA first as Joel Embiid announced as MVP

Since being drafted in 2003, LeBron James embarked on the longest MVP-voting streak of any NBA player ever.

LeBron James and Joel Embiid.

For the first time in his 20-year NBA career, LeBron James has failed to earn a single vote for the Most Valuable Player award. In what was regarded as one of the closest MVP races in recent seasons, Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid won the award ahead of Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The MVP is decided by 100 voters appointed by the NBA, who hand out votes for 1st place through to fifth - but James didn't even get a single fifth place vote. While the Los Angeles Lakers veteran was not considered to have been in the running for the award, many basketball fans were nonetheless shocked that the most dominant player of the last 20 years didn't attract a single vote.

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James played in 55 of the 82 games during the regular season, after his season was disrupted by a foot injury in February. He returned after nearly a month out of action in March, with the Lakers rallying late in the season to earn the 7th seed in the playoffs via the play-in tournament.

The four-time MVP broke the NBA's all-time scoring record earlier in the season, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most points scored in NBA history. For the season James averaged 28.9 points per game, 8.3 rebounds, and 6.8 assists, but also tied his career lowest mark for games played.

James still attracted votes in the Lakers' disastrous 2021-22 season, despite the Lakers missing both the playoffs and the play-in tournament. While Embiid, Jokic and Antetokounmpo picked up the overwhelming majority of votes for the first three places, other votes went to an assembly of names around the league.

Boston Celtics wing Jayson Tatum was the clear fourth-place vote getter, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Donovan Mitchell, Domantas Sabonis and Luka Doncic following behind.

Joel Embiid breaks through to win NBA MVP

Embiid finally won the MVP after finishing as runner-up multiple times, thanks in part to playing the second-most regular season games in his career. The 29-year-old was picked fourth by the 76ers in the 2014 draft, but missed his first two full seasons due to injuries.

Injuries continually hobbled his MVP case in seasons past, but he was able to enjoy a rare season of continuity in the 2022/23 campaign, helping Philadelphia earn the third seed in the Eastern Conference. After years of hard luck, Embiid said he was immensely grateful that his hard work had paid off.

"It's been a long time coming," Embiid said on Tuesday. "A lot of hard work. I've been through a lot. I'm not just talking about basketball. I'm talking about my life. My story. Where I come from. How I got here and what it took for me to be here."

Joel Embiid roars to the crowd.
Joel Embiid won the NBA MVP after finishing as the runner-up last season. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Allen Iverson was named league MVP in 2001. Other 76ers to capture the league's top individual award: Julius Erving (1981), Moses Malone (1983) and Wilt Chamberlain (1966-1968).

"I am absolutely thrilled for Joel on winning the MVP award. He is the real deal and deserves every bit of recognition that comes his way," Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said. "He embodies everything that the honour stands for.

"His drive to improve is unmatched, and like the saying 'a dream doesn't become reality through magic, it takes hard work', he's put in the work."

Sixers fans can enjoy Embiid, who became an American citizen last year, for years. His four-year, $196 million ($A294m) contract extension doesn't kick in until next season and takes him through 2026-27.

He holds career averages of 27.2 points and 11.2 rebounds in 394 career starts. He's a four-time All-NBA selection and three-time All-Defensive Team selection.

With AAP

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