Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets won the award the past two seasons, while Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo won the award and took home the honors in 2019 and 2020.
The award, which has been renamed after Michael Jordan, has been won by a center each of the past three seasons. In addition, the award has been won by an international player each of the past five seasons. Prior to Antetokounmpo winning in 2019, the only international-born players to win NBA MVP were Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Embiid led the NBA in scoring for the second straight season. He averaged 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.7 blocked shots per game. Embiid is the first center since Moses Malone in 1981-82 to average at least 30 points per game. Embiid, Bob McAdoo, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlain are the only centers to accomplish the feat in back-to-back seasons.
One thing missing from Embiid’s impressive resume is an NBA championship. The 76ers are battling the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but Embiid has missed the past two weeks with an LCL sprain in his right knee. He’s missed two games so far, but the 76ers survived without him in the first game against the Celtics. The 76ers title hopes ride on the health of Embiid’s knee.
Jokic had an outstanding season as well and became the first center in NBA history to average a triple-double for the season. He dropped 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 9.8 assists per game. He led the Nuggets to the best record in the Western Conference. With Embiid’s win, Jokic came up short in his quest to become the fourth player in league history to win three straight MVP awards. Larry Bird, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain were the three to claim that title.
Antetokounmpo averaged 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, and nearly six assists per game this season. The Bucks had the best record in the league for a large part of the season. However, the Bucks fell in shocking fashion to the Miami Heat as the top seed in the Eastern Conference in the first round of the playoffs.
Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics led the polls for MVP back in December, while Jokic had a seemingly insurmountable lead at the polling around the All-Star Break, with Antetokounmpo and Embiid in second and third, respectively. When the Nuggets started to flounder in March, Embiid went on a torrid pace. His 52-point outburst in Philadelphia’s win over Boston in late March sealed the deal in the MVP race.
Embiid not only won the Kia NBA MVP, but also was named league MVP by the Sporting News, with only three first-place votes separating him from Jokic and Antetokounmpo.
While Joel Embiid celebrates his NBA MVP win, other players are facing uncertainty, like LeBron James, who is uncertain about his future after a playoff exit.