Publish Date: 04/10/2021
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa
Only four NBA players from outside the United States have won the MVP award
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call basketball a truly American sport. It was born in the USA – James Naismith invented the game in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. The US is also where the sport has seen its most memorable moments, especially following the formation of the world’s most elite basketball league in the world, the NBA.
Another proof that basketball is through and through American is the fact that the best basketball players in history are mostly from the US. We say “mostly” because out of 34 different players who have won the NBA MVP award (Maurice Podoloff Trophy), four were born outside the US.
Those are, namely:
Although there’s still a couple of weeks left before the end of the 2020-21 season, it seems we’re about to see the 5th non-American receiving the award. The man in question is Serbia-born Dallas Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.
With the odds in the ballpark of -150, Nikola Jokic is the main candidate for the MVP award for the regular season of 2020-21. In comparison, the second favorite, Philadelphia’s Cameroonian center Joel Embiid is priced at +500.
The trouble for Embiid is that he got himself injured recently, which could keep him off the court for half of the remaining regular-season games. As a result, James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets has emerged as a potential threat to Jokic in his effort to snatch the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
At the moment of writing, Brooklyn Nets are the #1 favorite to win the NBA Championship this year and it’s mostly thanks to Harden. Nevertheless, his odds are still way longer than those on Jokic.
Born in 1995 in former Yugoslavia (the country that’s still tied with the US for most FIBA Basketball World Cup titles), Jokic comes from a basketball-loving family – one of his brothers played for the Detroit Mercy Titans in the NCAA.
Slightly overweight as a teenager, Nikola did not get much attention in his homeland until he caught the eye of the NBA scouts in the mid-2010s. He decided to move to America in 2015, after being drafted by the Denver Nuggets a year earlier.
Over the next couple of years, he’s managed to establish himself as one of the key players in his team. However, the best season of Jokic’s career (so far) has been this one. He’s been nothing short of phenomenal in all areas of the game – shooting, assisting, and rebounding.
In fact, triple-doubles have been his thing in 2020-21. Earlier this season, he joined the group of the top 10 NBA players with the most triple-doubles in the history of the competition. He also became the European player with the most triple-doubles scored in the NBA.
This season, we also saw him becoming only the third player in NBA history with 50+ career triple-doubles, as well as breaking Denver’s record for most double-doubles.