On Wednesday, May 11th, 2022 the NBA announced the Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic won the 2021 – 2022 NBA MVP for 2nd – consecutive season helping NBA grow internationally. Jokic made it four straight MVPs for foreign – born players of the National Basketball Association.
The Runners – Up in NBA MVP Voting
The native of Serbia superstar and multi-talented big – man managed to narrowly beat out the 2 – time NBA MVP award winner in Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece who is also the reigning NBA champion from the Milwaukee Bucks as well as the Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid from Cameroon to mark another first in the National Basketball Association in the fact that never before have the top 3 in NBA MVP voting have all been international basketball players (not from the United States of America).
The 2022 NBA playoffs are absolutely loaded and stocked with international talent that is constantly showcased on basketball’s biggest stage. Players such as the Dallas Mavericks incredible guard Luka Doncic, the 2019 rookie of the year and Euro League champion from Slovenia.
Former NBA Commissioner David Stern had a Dream for the League
The eventual and progressive increase of international talent was former Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, David Stern’s, ultimate vision for the NBA. He saw the NBA as a global entity, and he always insisted that the NBA be a true driving force in growing the game of basketball internationally.
“It’s David Stern’s dream,” the Philadelphia 76ers head coach, Doc Rivers, confirmed. “Everybody else is good. It’s a world game. It’s no longer just ‘us,’ whatever us means. It’s a world game and that’s a good thing.”
The ripple effect of international ball players extends well beyond the United States of America.
For the basketball – dominated countries of Serbia and Greece, the continued success of Jokic and Antetokounmpo provides them with constant bragging rights. Antetokounmpo has won back – to – back NBA MVP awards (2018 – 2019, 2019 – 2020), and now the pride of Sombor, Serbia, has matched that by doing the same thing right after Giannis did it.
“We are a country of basketball. This is more proof that we are the best,” the man who trained a teenage Nikola Jokic as his strength and conditioning coach at Belgrade club Mega, Marko Ćosić, stated. “It is not easy for a country like Serbia with 7 million people to compete with the rest of the world.”
Ćosić who is now a professor at the University of Belgrade, explains Jokic’s style of play by saying, “Is really poetry… he’s an artist.” The 27 – year – old Jokic averaged 27.1 – points, 13.8 – rebounds, and 7.9 – assists throughout the 2021 – 2022 NBA regular season.
According to the National Basketball Association…
Across NBA Europe’s social media channels, content featuring Antetokounmpo gets 100 % better results than the average post. Jokic content does 10 % better than average due to his country of origin.
Subscriber growth for NBA League Pass shows a 17 % increase in Serbia, 14 % in Slovenia, and 9 % in Greece over the course of the current NBA season over last season. It was up 40 % in Africa as a whole, though the NBA does not release the actual total number of subscribers to the general public as of now.
NBA Preseason Games to be Played in Abu Dhabi
The NBA has recently scheduled the Milwaukee Bucks as well as the Atlanta Hawks to play 2 – upcoming preseason games at Abu Dhabi in October of 2022 which will mark the National Basketball Association’s first ever games in the United Arab Emirates and the Arabian Gulf as well too.
Greece and Giannis
It’s impossible to overestimate the overwhelming impact that Giannis Antetokounmpo has had on Greece, both as an outstanding ball player and as a great person. He was born to immigrant Nigerian parents and only acquired a Greek passport shortly before being drafted way back in 2013.
“Giannis is a hero. He’s a good image of Greece. He’s an ambassador of Greece worldwide,” Vassilis Skountis, a broadcaster for NBA games on Cosmote TV, Vassilis Skountis, said.
In Greek sports media, there’s soccer, basketball, and then there is Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo essentially is his own category of news in Greece. There’s live coverage of games, no matter the hour in Greece, and analysis of his performances.
Greek parents love him while their children want to be just like him. He is a true hero.
“He’s Greek, he’s very spectacular, he’s very strong, he dunks, he wins championships, he’s playing with the national team,” Skountis goes on to say. “The kids here in Greece, everybody wants to be like Giannis.”
Africa and Embiid
In Cameroon and all around the large continent of Africa, where soccer definitely dominates, Embiid is a budding role model, as is Giannis.
“These kids coming from abroad … they end up working twice as hard,” the associate technical director at NBA Academy Africa, Joe Touomou, explained. “When it’s time to compete, you see the result of that hard work. That’s why you see those three foreign guys at the top.”
The National Basketball Association is helping develop the sport of basketball in Africa, opening an academy and partnering with FIBA to run a Champions League – style competition for the club teams there.
Doc Rivers has seen it, and he rants and raves about it!
“I went over to Africa a couple years ago, to Dakar, and it’s amazing. It really is,” says Rivers. “The academy that the NBA runs in Africa is like no other.”
Basketball Without Borders plays a pivotal role, as they provide annual camps every year to showcase great young phenom prospects as well as exposing them to players of the National Basketball Association and NBA coaching.
Joel Embiid was a shy and skinny camper way back in 2011, and look how far he has progressed as he continues to help expand the reach of the NBA globally.
“Quite frankly, Joel was not the best prospect that we had,” Touomou expressed. “But he was fearless.”
Embiid is apparently interested in gaining French citizenship, and that would potentially make him eligible to play for the French national team as soon as the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games.
In the basketball hotbeds of the continent of Europe, winning medals for their country is just as important as NBA success and even possibly more significant.
Jokic led Serbia to win the silver medal in basketball at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics although he decided to sit out the Tokyo Games qualifiers last summer as he said that he was simply too tired following his first NBA MVP season. Serbia hosted that qualifying tournament, but Serbia eventually lost to Italy in the decisive final game.
“Whatever issues he has playing for the Serbian team, all parties — the Serbian team, the basketball association and him — they need to work together to try to resolve it,” the basketball – loving Serb who lives in London, Andrija Pavlovic, said. “We need him. We’ve had great success in the past. It’s a tradition we’re looking to extend.”
Nikola Jokic’s Basketball Career Achievements, Honor, & Awards
- 2 – Time NBA Most Valuable Player Award Winner (2021, 2022)
- 4 – Time NBA All – Star Selection (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022)
- 2 – Time All – NBA First Team (2019, 2021)
- All – NBA Second Team (2020)
- NBA All – Rookie First Team (2016)
- 2 – Time Serbian Player of the Year Award Winner (2018, 2021)
- ABA League MVP Award Winner (2015)
- ABA League Top Prospect (2015)
Maguire, Ken. “Jokic’s NBA MVP a win for hoops – crazed nations outside US”. The Associated Press. May 11, 2022.
Basketball Reference News Services. “Nikola Jokic”. Basketball Reference. May12, 2022.