Breaking Down Controversy Surrounding Nikola Jokić’s Quest For His Third-Straight NBA MVP Award

Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic

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In 2014, the Denver Nuggets selected Nikola Jokić with the 41st overall pick in the NBA Draft, and it’s safe to say the vast majority of teams that opted to go with someone else before that point wish they could go back in time.

To describe Jokić as the hidden gem of that draft class would be the ultimate understatement.

There’s no doubt the fact that he initially made a name for himself while playing in Serbia was the primary reason he dropped all the way to the second round, and the Nuggets were able to capitalize on that retroactive oversight in a big way.

The man known as “Joker” took a few years to find his footing in the NBA, but it was hard to ignore him once he did. In 2019, he earned the first of the five All-Star Team nods he currently has under his belt while helping Denver snap a postseason drought stretching back to 2013—and he was just getting started.

Jokić was a force to be reckoned with over the course of the 2020-21 campaign that ended with him winning Most Valuable Player honors, and the formidable big man proved it wasn’t a fluke when he earned the award yet again the following year.

The 6’11” star was facing an uphill battle in his quest for a threepeat based on the odds at the start of the season, but it appeared he was well on his way to doing exactly that based on how he played over the course of the first few months.

However, if you’ve been paying attention to The Discourse surrounding Jokić and the MVP race over the past month or so, you’re likely aware it’s become an incredibly heated topic of debate among NBA fans.

Why? Well, if you’re looking for some insight, you’ve come to the right place.

Unpacking the controversy concerning Nikola Jokić and the 2023 NBA MVP award

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Jokić is in some very impressive company as one of the thirteen players in NBA history who’ve won MVP honors in back-to-back seasons, and he’d join Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, and Bill Russell in the exclusive club reserved for those who’ve secured it three times in a row if he’s able to repeat once again.

As I mentioned above, it seemed like Joker was going to coast to the threepeat until things took an interesting turn around the All-Star Break.

At the start of March, Kendrick Perkins rustled plenty of feathers when he implied Jokić has gotten a leg up on the rest of the competition in the awards voting because of the color of his skin.

While that Scorching Take was widely rebuked by plenty of people (including J.J. Redick), it’s hard to ignore the role that renewed focus on Jokić’s MVP merits played when it came to shifting the narrative surrounding the race for the trophy.

Perkins shared those thoughts shortly before the Nuggets kicked off a four-game losing streak and around the same time the 76ers kicked off an eight-game winning streak thanks in no small part to the play of Joel Embiid.

As a result, Jokić found his play thrust under the microscope as fans and talking heads increasingly engaged in fairly pedantic debates about how the “Valuable” in “Most Valuable Player” should truly be defined, which frequently involved people pointing to his lackluster effort on defense (an issue highlighted by the following clip).

This led to the rise of two primary camps.

In one, you have proponents of Embiid who argue the MVP should be given to the more well-rounded player (one who also leads the lead in points-per-game).

The other is home to Jokić supporters who have a tendency to pull out a plethora of advanced stats and highlight his skills as a scorer and playmaker and insist that taking his MVP streak into account in the voting process is tantamount to penalizing him for being too good at basketball.

Regardless of how you feel about the matter, I think any sane person has to admit Doc Rivers emerged as the voice of reason when he shared his thoughts on the matter and urged basketball fans to ” stop trying to put people down” in favor of “celebrating our guys in the league” (although the 76ers coach understandably said he feels Emiid deserves the MVP).

It’s unlikely this controversy is going to die down until the award is handed out, but I can only hope this gives you a better idea of why it exists in the first place.

RELATED: Stephen A. Smith Gets Brutally Roasted For Picking Anthony Davis Over Luka Doncic And Nikola Jokić

Connor Toole avatar and headshot for BroBible
Connor Toole is the Deputy Editor at BroBible. He is a New England native who went to Boston College and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Frequently described as "freakishly tall," he once used his 6'10" frame to sneak in the NBA Draft and convince people he was a member of the Utah Jazz.