BOSTON — Joel Embiid jumped to the pinnacle of his career this season, and on Tuesday was named the NBA Most Valuable Player.
The 76ers star became the first Philly player to win the award since Hall of Famer Allen Iverson in 2001 and the fifth-most valuable player in franchise history. Embiid received 915 points and 73 first place votes from the media to win easily. Nikola Jokic, the two-time defending MVP and quarterback for the Denver Nuggets, finished second with 674 points and 15 first-place votes. Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was third with 606 points and 12 first-place votes.
Read more: Joel Embiid named Eastern Conference Player of the Year to make it through the 2022-23 season
“I don’t even know where to start,” Embiid told TNT host Ernie Johnson Jr. after the winner was announced NBA tip Displays. “You know, it’s been a long time. You know, it’s a lot of hard work. I’ve been through a lot.
“I don’t just talk about basketball. I talk about everything in life, you know my story. You know where I come from, how I got here, what it takes to be here. So it feels good. I don’t know what to say. Amazing thing.” .”
A native of Cameroon, Embiid came to America to play basketball at the age of 16.
Once in the NBA, Embiid sat out the first two seasons due to foot surgeries. He then had surgery at the end of the season to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee during the 2016-17 campaign. Embiid went on to have various other injuries. He was sidelined at the start of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Boston Celtics due to a sprained right knee.
But Embiid managed to overcome the injuries and turn his 2022-23 season into his best yet.
He won his second consecutive scoring title by averaging 33.1 points and eighth in rebounds (10.2) and seventh in blocks (1.7). He was also named the Eastern Conference Player of the Year three times.
“He’s the best player in the league!” PJ Tucker said, before repeating it for emphasis. “I think it’s always a discussion [on who should have won]but I don’t think there was a discussion all year.
“Complete control all year round.”
The honor comes after Embiid finished second in the 2021 and 2022 MVPs.
The Sixers think they should have won it last season. That’s when Embiid (30.6 points in 2021-22) became not only the first center to win the scoring title since Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal (29.7 in 1999-2000), but also the first center to average more than 30 points. Since Moses Malone (31.1 in 1981-1982).
But Jokić won the award after becoming the first player in league history to score 2,000 points (2,004), 1,000 rebounds (1,019) and 500 assists (584) in a single season.
It was hard to argue against the Nuggets getting Embiid approved in 2021 because of the games played. Jokić’s playing in every game in the season dropped to 72 contests due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Embiid 21 missed.
But now, Embiid has crossed the hump, joining Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Malone, and Iverson as the only six to win the award. And it’s a testament to how far he’s come since the Sixers hired Doc Rivers as coach on October 3, 2020.
Before that, Embiid was an elite player and was often out of shape. But having coached many Hall of Famers—including Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Tracy McGrady—Rivers knows that work ethic and leadership skills are essential to achieving greatness.
So Rivers has been upfront with Embiid, emphasizing changes to the one-man approach. He asked Embiid to become a better player and teammate. The coach also found ways to make Embiid more impactful on the court, placing him on the free throw line and facing the basket, where it is difficult for teams to double his team.
» Read more: Dominating both sides of the court, Sixers’ Joel Embiid should dethrone Nikola Jokic as MVP
“I think it started last year with his conditioning and his understanding of how serious you have to be about this game,” Rivers said. “How seriously, not just as a player, but just the little things you do to impact your entire team.
“This year, I think he came in better form, he even did more with his teammates and led. He’s still young, and he’s still growing before our eyes. It’s amazing.”
In the process, the 29-year-old became the sixth foreign player to win the award, joining Jokic (Serbia), Antetokounmpo (Greece), Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Steve Nash (Canada) and Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria). He is also the third consecutive winner of the Best Foreign Player award. Antetokumpo won the award during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.
Not surprisingly, Embiid stands in the way of Jokić becoming the fourth player to win three consecutive MVP awards.
“Nobody can guard him all year,” Tucker said of Embiid. “He destroys teams’ doubles and triples, whatever they throw at him. Nobody can stop him and he still had a really successful season, finishing 3rd in the East, I don’t know what to say other than that.
“To get all those doubles and triples and still be able to score in the 50s, 30s and 40s every single night is unbelievable.”
Embiid finished with a career high 59 points and seven blocks against the Utah Jazz in November. He would add 53 and 52 games during the season. Embiid also scored in the 30s 31 times and in the 40s 10 times.
“It’s not even about scoring for me,” said Paul Reed. “It’s about the defensive end. I’ve seen him make some big defensive plays that aren’t natural. Like going in and competing with Jason Tatum and Demar DeRozan on the edge, and these guys are aggressive. [while] attack men.
“Man like me, I’m big. I respect that kind of thing.”
Read more: Overcoming Joel Embiid’s absence, Sixers take Game 1, 119-115, 45 points behind James Harden.
But will people respect Embiid’s player of the year award now while he’s out during the qualifiers?
The seventh-year veteran, who has a long history of injury, sprained the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee on April 20 in Game 3 of the Sixers’ first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets.
“There’s no way I’m going to win the MVP award if there is any objection,” Rivers said of the award, which will be announced while Embiid is injured. “[It is] An amazing achievement. You would obviously prefer to see him do it and play, but they chose the date to give him the award, and we don’t.”
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