NBA

MVP Jokic: I didn't think I would be in the NBA

By Sports Desk June 08, 2021

Nikola Jokic admitted "I didn't even think I would be in the NBA" after being crowned the league's MVP in historic fashion on Tuesday.

Denver Nuggets star Jokic became the first player in franchise history to be named the Most Valuable Player and the lowest draft pick ever to receive the individual honour.

Jokic – the 41st overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft – beat Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid (586) and Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry (453) to the award with 91 first-place votes and 971 total points.

In the regular season, Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game – the combined total of 45.5 leading the NBA alongside triple-double king Russell Westbrook.

The Denver center shot 56.6 per cent from the field, 38.8 per cent from beyond the arc and 86.8 per cent from the free-throw line. No player to attempt 30 or more field goals across a season in NBA history has topped Jokic in all three metrics.

"To be honest, I didn't even think I would be in the NBA," said Jokic, who became the first player from Serbia to be named MVP, joining Dirk Nowitzki (Germany) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) as European winners.

"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 is the first center to win the MVP since Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 and just the sixth center to claim the award since the three-point line was introduced in 1979-80.

"The Denver Nuggets drafted me, it was an opportunity for me to become an NBA player," Jokic said. "I think I did a good job of using that opportunity."

During a season in which a number of other superstars faced stretches on the sidelines with injuries, Jokic started all 72 games for the Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets finished third and have since advanced to the Western Conference semi-finals, although they trail the Phoenix Suns after Game 1.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said: "I'm so happy and respect so much the hard work and dedication that he’s put in to reach this point.

"I've been lucky enough to coach Nikola his entire career, and to see his growth from a second-round pick trying to learn the NBA to a perennial All-Star and now the MVP is truly extraordinary. He deserves this honour and I don't take for granted getting to coach a player, and more importantly a person like Nikola."

"Nikola's journey from the 41st pick in the draft to MVP is one of the most remarkable individual stories we have witnessed in sports," said Nuggets chairman Stanley Kroenke.

"His hard work, commitment and dedication to his craft, team and community are second to none. We couldn’t be more proud and fortunate to have him with us in Denver."

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