USA TODAY International Edition

Handwringi­ng over NBA’s MVP award is raging out of control

- Jeff Zillgitt Columnist USA TODAY

Denver’s Nikola Jokic deserved to win NBA MVP.

So did Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokoun­mpo and Philadelph­ia’s Joel Embiid.

Unless somehow the ballots from 100 voters resulted in a two- way or three- way tie – an unlikely scenario – only one player can win the award.

This year, Jokic won the award for the second season in a row, and it’s not a popular decision in Philadelph­ia and certain segments of NBA Twitter.

Impetuous Sixers fans are upset Embiid didn’t win, and there’s also the possibilit­y Embiid is unhappy he didn’t win.

There’s nothing wrong with that either. Players like to win awards, and there’s prestige that comes along with winning MVP, plus a bonus and more endorsemen­t opportunit­ies ( unless you’re Jokic who isn’t interested in those sponsorshi­p deals). Plus, there’s a narrow window when a player is in his prime to win the award.

There’s also nothing wrong with finishing in the top three and being considered one of the three best players in the world. No matter what order a voter listed Antetokoun­mpo, Embiid and Jokic, they weren’t wrong. And not every voter listed those players 1- 2- 3.

I understand that in hot- take culture it’s required to have outrage about everything. But this isn’t it. That’s not to say there isn’t room for healthy debate and discussion. It was that close by any measuremen­t, eye test and obstacles overcome. As I wrote late in the regular season, all three make a great case. It was difficult to rank them in order.

Embiid had a great season, and if he had won, I would’ve used the same rationale. No matter who won among Antetokoun­mpo, Embiid and Jokic, it’s the fourth season in a row a player born outside of the U. S. has won MVP.

It’s gotten to the point that no matter who wins an award in the NBA, there’s almost always a massive gripe.

It happened when Scottie Barnes won Rookie of the Year and when Ja Morant won Most Improved. And if someone other than Barnes and Morant didn’t win those awards, there still would have been complaints about who won. It seems Tyler Herro’s Sixth Man Award is the only universall­y accepted voting outcome.

One of the objections to Jokic winning again is that “nerds with calculator­s” had a bias against Embiid as if somehow Jokic didn’t pass the eye test. But if you watched Jokic this season, it’s easy to see what a gifted player he is, especially with his scoring, passing and rebounding.

And the idea that advanced stats or analytics somehow propelled Jokic to MVP is absurd. Voters use a variety of data ( traditiona­l stats, advanced stats, wins- losses) to inform their decision. But it’s not the only thing. The people selected to vote spent an entire season watching games. They don’t rely on just one thing to make their decision.

The NBA isn’t expected to formally announce Jokic as MVP until Wednesday with the results. It may end up one of the closest MVP votes in history.

 ?? ISAIAH J. DOWNING/ USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Nuggets center Nikola Jokic reportedly will repeat as NBA MVP when the winner of the award is announced on Wednesday.
ISAIAH J. DOWNING/ USA TODAY SPORTS Nuggets center Nikola Jokic reportedly will repeat as NBA MVP when the winner of the award is announced on Wednesday.
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