After another dominant year, Jokic was named MVP for the second season in a row, becoming the 15th player in NBA history to win the MVP several times.
As a child, Jokic says he never dreamed of playing the sport he excelled at; he was too busy pulling out the stables.
“I was cleaning the boxes. I was cleaning the horses. At that age, I wasn’t thinking about basketball at all, I’m not going to lie.”
Fast forward to 2022 and Jokic appeared smelling of roses after the 27-year-old big man became the second player in a row to win it in successive seasons after Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2018-19 and 2019- 20.
Perhaps more significantly, there are also a number of non-US basketball individual top prize winners and the upward trajectory of a new group of international stars in the NBA.
Before Antetokounmpo won his first MVP title in 2019, it was 12 years since an international player won the prestigious award, when German Dirk Nowitzki did so as a member of the Dallas Mavericks in 2006-07.
However, the top three this year for the prestigious Maurice Podoloff Trophy was an international affair, as Jokic defeated Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. This is the first time that the first three MVP voters have been made up of international players.
In a league made up primarily of American stars, having a Serb, a Greek and a Cameroonian as the best players in the league is a milestone for the NBA.
Never before has there been such a concentration of international stars in the NBA. At this year’s All-Star game, there were seven internationally born players; Thirty years ago, there were only two.
In the first season of the league in 1946/47, there were five international players in the league. At the beginning of this season, there were 109 out of 39 countries.
Former NBA Commissioner David Stern noted the potential for global expansion and the opportunity for the sport to expand its boundaries.
“It’s David Stern’s dream,” said 76ers coach Doc Rivers. “It’s a world game. It’s not just “us” anymore, whatever we mean. It’s a world game and that’s a good thing. “
Combined with the influence of Dražen Petrović and Arvydas Sabonis – two European players who had a successful NBA career in the 1990s and are seen as pioneers in breaking down the US barrier for many international players to follow – the league it has become a realistic love for many. In fact, Sabonis’ son, Domantas, is an All-Star striker currently playing for the Sacramento Kings.
With the advent of league offices around the globe and sports becoming increasingly popular in many countries, it is probably not at all surprising that there has been an influx of international celebrities – and it is noteworthy that 11 of the last 27 number 1 elections in The NBA were born outside the United States.
A first wave?
Alongside this year’s MVP international finalists is probably the next European player to receive the award: Luka Doncic.
The Slovenian Dallas Mavericks guard is enjoying another season of extraordinary development.
The starter of 2019 – in addition to being a EuroLigue and MVP champion with Real Madrid at the age of 18 – has dragged Mav almost alone in the playoffs so far. And while his slow start to the season has ruled him out of this year’s nomination, he will certainly be competing in the years to come.
It is arguable that intoxicants of choice runs the taste in Donetsk, as well as Jokic, Antetokounmpo, and Embiid.
Jokic is comfortably the biggest name in Serbian basketball; Giannis Antetokounmpo – and his two brothers Francis and Thanasis – dominate the Greek NBA landscape; and Doncic is the star player of Slovenian basketball.
According to the NBA, on NBA Europe’s social media channels, content with Antetokounmpo performs 100% better than the average post, while Jokic content is 10% better.
The ripple effects of this influx of stars, with young basketball players seeing sport as a potential career path, is the fulcrum the NBA may need to grow even further with the next generation.
With basketball academies set up around the globe – either by the players or by the league itself – whose to say that the next Jokic could be right around the corner?
“If it’s not me, who am I?” Jokic explained when asked if he considered himself a driver to play in the NBA.
“I can’t come to the NBA and play basketball from … this stable, basically, and now I play basketball in the best league in the world and I play at a high level.”
With some of the most famous basketball players nearing the end of their careers – LeBron James is 37 years old, Kevin Durant is 33 years old and Steph Curry is 34 years old – there could be even more room for a new generation of young people. international players to take over the mantle. of the faces of the league.
And while they will face competition from top US talents such as Trae Young, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum and Zion Williamson, the NBA could receive a whole new influx of players as the league improves its global status.