Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who won back-to-back M.V.P. awards in 2015 and 2016, finished third in the voting. Curry, who led the league in scoring and dragged a depleted team to the brink of a playoff berth, had the second-most first-place votes with five. Antetokounmpo finished fourth. Members of the news media vote for the award, but The New York Times does not participate.
The race was, in some ways, a battle of attrition in a disjointed season that was marred by a host of injuries and coronavirus-related absences. LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers was a front-runner to win the award for a fifth time — and for the first time since 2013 — before he sprained his ankle in March and missed 26 games. Embiid was also sidelined for about three weeks with a bone bruise in his left knee.
Jokic, on the other hand, was an ironman, appearing in all 72 of his team’s games, and he kept the Nuggets afloat after Jamal Murray, their starting point guard and second-leading scorer, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in April. Without Murray, the Nuggets closed the season as the No. 3 seed in the West by winning 13 of 18 games as Jokic shouldered even more responsibility.
When Jokic joined the Nuggets as a rookie ahead of the 2015-16 season, he was fresh off his first M.V.P. campaign — in the Adriatic League. It did not take long for his coaches in Denver to recognize his versatility. They encouraged him to do what he does best, which is a bit of everything.
“If you have a chef and you put him in McDonald’s flipping burgers, he will feel terrible,” Stojakovic said. “But if you give him a chance to be a chef and create, he can do his magic.”
Calvin Booth, the team’s general manager, recalled joining the Nuggets’ front office before the start of the 2017-18 season. Jokic was beginning to establish himself as a young player full of promise, and Booth had seen clips and highlights of his handiwork. But Booth found that being around Jokic every day was a different experience altogether.
“I knew he was good,” Booth said, “but I didn’t know he was that good.”
Among his peers this season, Jokic was deemed the very best.
Marc Stein contributed reporting.