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Jokic wins the NBA’s MVP award, his third in four seasons.  Gilgeous-Alexander and Doncic complete the top 3
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Jokic wins the NBA’s MVP award, his third in four seasons. Gilgeous-Alexander and Doncic complete the top 3

Nikola Jokic did it all again. And the MVP trophy is his again.

Jokic, the Denver Nuggets star from Serbia, was announced Wednesday night as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player — the third time he has won the award in the last four seasons, a feat only six other players in the league’s history have accomplished .

He averaged 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists. Others averaged more in each category — and Jokic has had better years in each of those categories — but he was the only player to rank in the NBA’s top 10 in points, rebounds and assists per game this season.

Jokic received 79 of a possible 99 first-place votes from the panel of reporters and broadcasters who voted on the awards at the end of the regular season.

“It has to start with your teammates,” Jokic said on TNT, where the award was announced. “Without them I am nothing. Without them I can’t do anything. Coaches, players, organization, medical staff, development coaches… without them I couldn’t be who I am.”

It was probably no coincidence that Jokic appeared on television for the awards ceremony wearing a T-shirt commemorating the life of one of his mentors, Golden State assistant coach Dejan Milojević, who died earlier this year after suffering a heart attack during a road trip.

Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was second and Dallas’ Luka Doncic was third, both reaching the top three of the MVP voting for the first time. With Serbia’s Jokic, Canada’s Gilgeous-Alexander and Slovenia’s Doncic, it was the third straight season that three players born outside the U.S. finished 1-2-3 in the MVP voting.

This time, the foreign dominance at the top of the NBA was even more evident: Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is from Greece, finished fourth – marking the first time in the award’s 69-year history that international players have gone 1-2- 3-4 went. at the vote. It also marked the sixth year in a row that a player born outside the US won the award.

Jokic appeared on all 99 ballots, with 18 second-place votes and two third-place votes. Gilgeous-Alexander also appeared on every ballot, with 15 votes for first place, 40 for second place, 40 for third place, three for fourth place and one for fifth place.

Doncic was second in all but one vote and received four first-place votes. Antetokounmpo received one first-place vote en route to fourth place. New York’s Jalen Brunson was fifth, followed by Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis and Phoenix’s Kevin Durant.

“Some people say this is the best player on the best team,” Jokic said when asked to define an MVP. “For me it is the man who is the most valuable. The team could not play without him.”

Jokic is now the ninth player to win the MVP award at least three times. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the title six times, Bill Russell and Michael Jordan each won five, Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James four times, and Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are the other three-time winners.

Jokic’s surprising rise to superstardom has been chronicled time and time again over the years: He was the 41st overall pick in the 2014 draft, didn’t even think he had a realistic shot at playing in the NBA when his career began and has now a Hall of Fame resumer at age 29.

The other players with three MVP trophies in a four-year span are James, Johnson, Bird, Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain and Russell. And Jokic becomes the fifth player to finish first or second in the MVP voting in four consecutive years – joining Bird, Abdul-Jabbar, Russell and Tim Duncan.

Gilgeous-Alexander had perhaps the best feel-good story in the NBA this season, helping Oklahoma City to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference while averaging 30.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists. The Thunder won 57 games, 17 more than last season and 33 more than two years ago. Their rise coincided with Gilgeous-Alexander’s emergence as one of the game’s elite players.

“There isn’t a night where I don’t feel like we have the best player on the floor. … There is no one I would rather have on our team than him,” said Thunder coach Mark Daigneault, the league coach of the year this season, said last month.

Doncic has made a case for the MVP award by posting the first season in NBA history in which a player averaged 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists per game. There had been 14 instances before this year where a player averaged that many points and rebounds in a season. Five of those had resulted in MVP wins, including last season when Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid averaged 33 points and 10 rebounds.

And this was the second time ever that a player averaged at least 33 points and nine assists per game. The other was in 1972-73, when Kansas City’s Tiny Archibald averaged 34 points and 11 assists. He finished third in that season’s MVP voting, as did Doncic this season.

But in the end, it was Jokic who stood above all the others – and the vote wasn’t close.

“I think he stated his case pretty well,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “He does it every night. It’s hard to do what he does and be under the pressure he puts on every game. He does it with a smile on his face. He makes everyone around us better. And he is a leader on the field and someone we expect greatness from every time he steps on the field and delivers.”

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This story has been corrected to Doncic averaging 33 points, not 34.

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AP Sports Writers Arnie Stapleton and Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.

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APNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA