Nuggets' Nikola Jokic wins NBA MVP for 3rd time in 4 seasons - ESPN

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Nuggets' Nikola Jokic wins NBA MVP for 3rd time in 4 seasons - ESPN

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic became the NBA's ninth three-time MVP, easily beating out the Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Mavs' Luka Doncic on Wednesday.

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic became the NBA's ninth three-time MVP, easily beating out the Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Mavs' Luka Doncic on Wednesday.

Denver Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic continued to add to his legacy as one of the best NBA players ever by winning his third Most Valuable Player trophy on Wednesday.

Jokic earned the award for the third time in four seasons, succeeding last season's MVP, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. Jokic topped Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, who finished second and third, respectively, in the voting.

"It's got to start with the teammates; without them, I cannot do nothing," Jokic said Wednesday on TNT after being named MVP. "Coaches, players, organization, medical staff, strength coaches, development coaches. It is all one big circle. But I cannot be whatever I am without them."

Jokic's third MVP victory wasn't close. He garnered 79 first-place votes and a total of 926 points. Gilgeous-Alexander received 15 first-place votes and 640 points. Doncic claimed four first-place votes and 566 points. The Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo finished fourth, and New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson was fifth in voting.

"There's a lot of players that deserve it," Jokic said of the MVP race. "It's probably details and the small things [that determine it]."

Jokic is the first center in six decades to win MVP three times in four seasons; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did so from 1973-74 to 1976-77. Jokic also is the ninth player in the NBA history to win at least three MVPs, joining Abdul-Jabbar (6 total), Michael Jordan (5), Bill Russell (4), LeBron James (4), Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

"It's hard to differentiate greatness from greatness from greatness," Denver coach Michael Malone said in early April of how Jokic has gotten better from previous MVP seasons. "And then that's what he's been over multiple years now. I know the last six years now, we've had by far the best record in the Western Conference and only second of the NBA behind, I think, Milwaukee in that time."

In his ninth season, Jokic played 79 games, his most since logging 80 games during the 2018-19 season. He joined Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to finish in the top five in total points (fifth), rebounds (third) and assists (second) in multiple seasons, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. Elgin Baylor is the only other player to do so once.

Jokic is also the second player to record 2,000 points, 900 rebounds and 600 assists in a season, joining Oscar Robertson.

Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists -- all in the top 10 in each statistical category. He had 25 triple-doubles, second only to the Sacramento Kings' Domantas Sabonis (26), while averaging 58.3% shooting from the field and 35.9% from behind the arc.

Powered by Jokic, Denver finished the season fifth in offensive efficiency, eighth in defensive efficiency and fourth in net rating. The Nuggets were one of four teams to rank in the top 10 in all three, along with the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder.

While Denver boasted the best starting five in the league, Jokic's value was undeniable to Denver. The Nuggets posted a plus-11.8 net efficiency when Jokic was on the court but a minus-8.6 when he was off the court. Jokic led the NBA with a plus-682 plus-minus. The Nuggets were minus-251 with their franchise player off the court.

Of course, the humble Jokic often says he doesn't care about individual honors as much as he covets the championship. Jokic is trying to lead the Nuggets to a repeat as world champs.

Should he do so, the Nuggets big man will have put together a four-year run that only four other all-time greats have done. Russell, Bird, Johnson and James are the only players to win three regular-season MVPs and two NBA titles in a four-year span.

"Nikola has matured, his ability to continue to make everyone around him better," Malone said. "And when you win a championship, and we're going to run it back, but in place of Bruce [Brown] and Jeff [Green], we're going to try to put young players in and the fact that we have a better record than we did last year.

"And we've had Jamal Murray miss [23] games. It speaks to Nikola understanding it's still my responsibility as a great player to help [the younger role players] as well as all the other guys to understand what their roles are, how to play on both ends of the floor and, most importantly, make those guys better."

ESPN's Stats and Information contributed to this report.

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