Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has won the 2021 NBA Most Valuable Player, becoming the first player drafted in the second round to win the award.
The Serbian big man was drafted by the Nuggets with the 41st pick - by far the latest pick to become MVP, with the previous lowest of 15th shared by Steve Nash and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
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'The Joker' now has his name etched alongside the greatest players in league history, which surely seemed unlikely when he was that unheralded prospect out of Sombor, Serbia in 2014.
He was the overwhelming choice for voters, earning 91 first place votes to win a total of 971 points.
Second placed Joel Embiid earned only one first place vote but the majority of second place picks, while Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry came in third.
"To be honest, I didn't even think I would be in the NBA," Jokic said.
"My goal when I started to play basketball back home, it was playing in Euroleague because that was kind of the closest top league to my country."
Jokic's MVP award is the first for a Denver player and first for a centre since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000.
A commercial for Taco Bell was playing on the broadcast when the Nuggets initially selected Jokic in the 2014 draft, with the big man playing another season in Europe before joining the NBA in 2015.
After becoming the first Nuggets player to win the award, Jokic said he felt as though he had made the most of his opportunity to join the NBA.
“I didn’t even think about being in the NBA (as a kid),” he said on TNT.
“Then the Nuggets drafted me, it was an opportunity for me to become an NBA player. I think I did a good job of using that opportunity.”
Nikola Jokic the runaway winner of NBA MVP award
Jokic was the runaway winner, getting 91 of the 101 first-place ballots cast - 100 of them from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the league, the other being an aggregate first-place ballot compiled from fan voting.
In his sixth NBA season, Jokic played all 72 games and averaged a career-high 26.4 points, 10.9 rebounds, a career-high 8.4 assists and 1.32 steals in 34.8 minutes.
Philadelphia's Joel Embiid was second in the MVP voting with Golden State's Stephen Curry - a two-time MVP - third.
Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo was fourth and Phoenix's Chris Paul fifth.
The previous record-holders for lowest draft picks who became MVPs were Steve Nash and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who were both chosen 15th overall.
Antetokounmpo won the MVP award each of the last two seasons.
Greece now cedes the bragging rights to Serbia - the fifth nation outside of the US to claim an MVP, joining Canada (Nash), Greece (Antetokounmpo), Nigeria (Hakeem Olajuwon) and Germany (Dirk Nowitzki).
After the top five, the rest of the voting was Dallas' Luka Doncic, Portland's Damian Lillard, New York's Julius Randle, Rose, Utah's Rudy Gobert, Washington's Russell Westbrook, Philadelphia's Simmons and, tying for 13th, was the Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard, Brooklyn's James Harden and the Lakers' LeBron James.
James got one fifth-place vote - extending his streak to 18 years with at least one vote in the MVP race.
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