Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has won back-to-back MVP’s, and he’s vying to become just the third NBA player to win the award in three consecutive years.
And while Jokic will more than likely fall short of the achievement – Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid is the favorite to take home the award – Jokic has a much bigger goal in mind.
Jokic has led the Nuggets to a 2-0 series lead over the Phoenix Suns in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, putting on a show Monday night in Denver with 39 points, 16 rebounds, and five assists.
Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley was in awe after the performance, imploring fans of the game to appreciate what Jokic was doing on the floor.
“I just have to tell people, man, let’s enjoy greatness watching this Joker play,” Barkley said after the game. “I mean, he ain’t flashy. He seems like a great person. I don’t think I’ve met him in person before. But man, just appreciate greatness like we appreciated Steph [Curry] yesterday.
“I love this kid, watching him play basketball,” Barkley continued.
In a game where co-stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. struggled, Jokic took over offensively, taking 30 shots in a 97-87 win.
“I love an aggressive Nikola Jokic,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
“Nikola’s an MVP for a reason,” Malone said. “He can take over a game. He can beat you in a lot of ways…. I love a guy who’s getting to the basket, imposing his will upon the other team. And that fourth quarter, man, 14 points for that team, 28% from the field, 0-for-9 from 3?”
Embiid seemed to overtake Jokic in the MVP race at the end of the NBA’s regular season, despite Jokic leading Denver to a 53-29 record and the top seed in the Western Conference.
The MVP award will be announced Tuesday night.
“If he wins, it, we will be celebrating and very happy for him because it’d be a huge accomplishment – three years in a row. Only a few guys in NBA history have done that,” Malone said. “If he doesn’t win it, I’m still gonna give him a hug and tell him he’s the MVP in my eyes.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report