Joel Embiid’s Questionable NBA MVP Win Over Nikola Jokic Looks Even Worse After 76ers Bounced From Playoffs

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One of the fiercest debates in sports this season surrounded the NBA MVP award. Two worthy competitors — Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic — who each did enough to win the award.

However, race-baiting pundits made the award about the skin color of the two most-worthy combatants.

ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins made several comments throughout the season implying racism by NBA MVP voters. He insinuated that Nikola Jokic only won back-to-back MVP awards in 2021 and 2022 because he’s white. He also denigrated the previous NBA MVP awards won by Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki.

ESPN even had to issue an official apology, no doubt influenced by the NBA.

Regardless of the apology, the narrative became part of the conversation. I’m not willing to say that Nikola Jokic lost the MVP because he’s white or that Joel Embiid only won the award because he’s black.

There are layers and nuance to every conversation. As OutKick’s Alejandro Avila pointed out, both men had a good case to win the award.

“Embiid was rightly deserving of the award: averaging 33.1 points (league-best), 10.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists on 34.6 minutes a night,” Avila wrote.

“But Nikola Jokic, a two-time MVP winner, had his own case for the title. Jokic nearly averaged a triple-double per game — 24.5 PTS, 11.8 REB, 9.8 AST — as he led the Nuggets to a Western Conference-best 53-29 record.”

Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic both had strong NBA MVP cases, but Jokic’s was stronger

Averaging a near triple-double over an entire season while helping a team to a conference-best record is pretty tough to top. Philadelphia had a good season, but finished third in the Eastern Conference. Though, they did win more games (54) than the Nuggets (53).

But the 76ers went 11-5 in the 16 games missed by Embiid in the regular season. Jokic missed 13 games. The Nuggets won just five of those.

Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers poses with the MVP trophy.
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers poses with the MVP trophy. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Though it’s close, Nikola Jokic deserved to become the fourth player in NBA history to win the MVP in three consecutive seasons.

It’s not hard to envision that some MVP voters were swayed by the racial dynamics. In today’s climate, people are extremely afraid of being labeled as a racist.

NBA MVP awards often become public information. Did some white voters fear that voting for Jokic could get them labeled as being racist? I don’t know that for sure. But I’d be willing to bet that it played a role.

Especially considering that Embiid overwhelmingly garnered the most first-place votes. In no world did Embiid deserve 73% of the first-place votes. But that’s what he got. Jokic received just 15%, only 2% ahead of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

ESPN’s Mark Jackson didn’t even put Jokic in the Top 5. He subsequently apologized, but the Jokic hate is legitimate.

NBA MVP Joel Embiid is going home, while runner-up Nikola Jokic heads to the Western Conference Finals

That brings us to the NBA’s final four: the Nuggets, Lakers, Celtics and Heat. The team that’s clearly missing? The Philadelphia 76ers. Though, this is nothing new.

So, the league’s most valuable player has never reached the conference finals? In Sunday’s Game 7 against the Boston Celtics, with a chance to finally shed that dubious distinction, Embiid and the team laid an egg.

Not only did Boston obliterate Philadelphia (112-88), but Embiid scored just 15 points. He shot 5-18 from the field (28%), including 0-4 from three. And only four of his points came after halftime. Plus, he turned the ball over 4 times and recorded only one assist to go along with eight rebounds.

Definitely not an MVP performance.

NBA MVP Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts as the team's season ends in a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
NBA MVP Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts as the team’s season ends in a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Not only that, but Embiid essentially blamed his teammates for the loss.

That’s how a “valuable” player speaks, huh?

And it wasn’t just his Game 7 that shows the voters made a mistake. Embiid missed two playoff games, including one against the Celtics. The 76ers won both games.

When Embiid did play, he averaged 24.8 points per game. That’s not terrible, but it’s just 12th best among players who have played at least five playoff games this season. He also averaged 3.9 turnovers per game. That’s fourth-most in the league this postseason.

He shot 45% from the field and 21% from three while averaging 10 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

Not MVP numbers.

But you know who is putting up MVP numbers this postseason? Nikola Jokic

Jokic is averaging 30.7 points, fifth-best in the NBA. He’s averaging 12.8 rebounds, third-best in the league, and 9.7 assists, second-most. Yes, Jokic ranks top five among all playoff players in scoring, rebounding and assists.

Embiid doesn’t rank in the Top 5 in any of those three categories.

Kevin Durant of the Phoenix Suns and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets embrace after the Nuggets eliminate the Suns in the Western Conference playoffs.
Kevin Durant of the Phoenix Suns and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets embrace after the Nuggets eliminate the Suns in the Western Conference playoffs. (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jokic is shooting 55% from the field, including 47.5% from three. Both of those rank in the Top 15.

He does average 3.5 turnovers per game, but given his integral role in the team’s offense, that’s more excusable. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.8. Joel Embiid’s is 0.7.

Most importantly, Jokic has played all 11 of the Nuggets playoff games. And the team is 8-3 and on its way to the Western Conference Finals.

Joel Embiid’s 76ers went 5-4 in playoff games with him in the lineup.

And, they’re out of the playoffs.

The NBA MVP voters got it wrong. There’s no question about that.

Was it because of the race of the two men in contention?

That’s for you to decide.

Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @RealDanZak

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.


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  1. I’m sure it will even more fun listening to that idiot Mark Jackson calling the Nuggets/Lakers series on the four letter, especially when he didn’t even vote Jokic in his top 5 on his ballot. The entire series will be viewed on mute in my house.

  2. What else would we expect? The POTUS tells an arena full of mostly black college/advanced degree grads and family that white supremacy is the biggest threat to the USA. Its top down and its disgusting. I am starting to think we need two different countries. I honestly don’t see any way out of this where its, agree with me or you are a white supremacist. All the young kids growing up soak in this shit on TV, YouTube, Tik Tok, etc. Kids are sponges. Thanks Joe!!!

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