Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, the league’s leading scorer, has won his first NBA MVP award, defeating two-time winner Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets.
The 29-year-old from Yaoundé, Cameroon averaged 33.1 points per game to win his second straight scoring title, 10.2 rebounds per game, and 4.2 assists per game, tying a career high.
Embiid appeared in 66 games, the second-most in his career, but was again sidelined by injuries in the playoffs.
He’s been out with a sprained right knee, which cost him one game of the playoff sweep against Brooklyn as well as the first game of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston, which Philadelphia won on Monday night.
Jokic came in second, with Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo taking third. Embiid got 73 first-place votes. Antetokounmpo received 12 first-place votes, while Jokic received 15.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Joel Embiid said on Tuesday. “A lot of hard work. I’ve been through a lot. I’m not just talking about basketball. I’m talking about my life. My story. Where I come from. How I got here and what it took for me to be here.”
The 76ers watched on TV in Boston and erupted in applause and started chanting “MVP! MVP! ” as the seven-foot (2.12-metre) Embiid buried his head in his hands as he sat in a chair. He was in tears as teammates James Harden, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey mobbed him in celebration.
Joel Embiid, is the second player from Africa to win the prestigious award, joining only Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-94), and for the first time in his two-decade career, LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers did not receive a single vote for MVP.