There’s no denying Joel Embiid’s dominant MVP season ended on a sour note in the playoffs. Yet again he dealt with injury, and after the Sixers nearly closed out their second-round series against the Celtics in Game 6, Embiid and James Harden turned in poor performances in a woeful Game 7 loss.
But as brutal as that end to the series was, and as fresh as that may be in our minds, it doesn’t change what happened in the regular season.
Nikola Jokic, this year’s MVP runner-up who beat Embiid in each of the last two seasons, knows this. And after Jokic had closed out the Western Conference Finals in Game 4, securing the Nuggets’ first trip to the Finals, he gave a very classy answer when asked about Embiid’s MVP win.
Jokic on MVP race: “People are just mean in saying that Embiid shouldn’t have won it. I think he should have won it”— Per Sources (@PerSources) May 23, 2023
“People are just mean in saying that Embiid shouldn’t have won it,” Jokic told reporters. “I think he should have won it. I think he was playing, if you watch it, extremely tough basketball through the whole season. ... He was really amazing.”
Embiid and Jokic have always shown each other a lot of respect in the past, and Jokic has continued that trend yet again.
After sweeping the Lakers and making an array of huge plays and crazy high-arching shots on his way to averaging a highly efficient 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds and 11.8 assists through the series, Jokic could’ve easily made some harsher comments and reiterated his own case for MVP.
But he’s clearly focused on his playoff run now and hasn’t lost sight of what Embiid did in the regular season. Credit to Jokic for lifting Embiid up in a time when the latter has faced plenty of criticism after the Sixers’ playoff exit.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the MVP is a regular season award, and Embiid was absolutely deserving of his MVP this year.