DENVER — There's no joking about this one.
Denver Nuggets star center Nikola Jokić has been named the Most Valuable Player of the NBA, marking the first such award for a Denver Nuggets player in team history.
Jokić, 26, averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists in 72 regular season games this year, leading the Nuggets to the third seed in the Western Conference and a first round playoff victory against the Portland Trail Blazers. Each of those numbers are career highs for the 6-11 Serbian-born center, and he's now averaging more than 31 points a game through the first eight games of the NBA playoffs.
The award marks the first-ever MVP trophy for a Denver Nuggets player. Jokić is also the first second-round draft pick in modern NBA history to win the award.
“I’m so happy and respect so much the hard work and dedication that he’s put in to reach this point,” said head coach Michael Malone in a statement. “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 honor, and I don’t take for granted getting to coach a player, and more importantly a person, like Nikola.”
Jokić also earned his third consecutive All-Star nomination this year and his first time being voted in as a starter. He was named Western Conference Player of the Month twice, and Western Conference Player of the Week three times.
“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 E. Stanley Kroenke in a statement. “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.”
Shams Charania of The Athletic and ESPN both confirmed the news before the announcement in separate tweets on Tuesday.
Following the devastating loss of star guard Jamal Murray to a season-ending ACL tear in April, Jokić's swift passing and slick shooting kept the Nuggets afloat through the rest of the regular season and the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Jokić and the Nuggets take the court again on Wednesday in Phoenix following a 122-105 Game 1 loss to the Suns in the Western Conference semifinals on Monday night.