Joel Embiid has won the 2022-23 NBA MVP award, the league announced on Tuesday. Receiving 73 of a possible 100 first place votes, Embiid led the Philadelphia 76ers to No. 3 in the series in the Eastern Conference, averaging 33.1 points per game as best in the league, along with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game while entrenching the NBA’s No. 8 regular season. He is currently trying to win his first championship, which would be Philadelphia’s first since taking it all in 1983.
Notably, Embiid has finished second in voting in each of the past two seasons. In both races he lost to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. That created something of a rivalry between the two, as Embiidtook a few shots at Jokic as this season progressed.
Jokic was the betting favorite for most of this season in what ended up being a three-man race between the two and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, Embiid pulled out of late as his individual numbers soared as Jokic’s Nuggets struggled as a team. After Embiid scored 52 points on 20-of-25 shooting against the Boston Celtics in the final week of the regular season, 76ers coach Doc Rivers declared the MVP race “.”
He turned out to be right. While the Vegas odds had stayed pretty close to that mark, Embiid became the heavy favorite at the time. He never conceded that position and today was crowned the 2022/23 MVP. Embiid is now the fifth 76er to win the award, joining Wilt Chamberlain, who won it three times as a Sixer, along with Julius Erving (1981), Moses Malone (1983) and Allen Iverson (2001). Teammate James Harden won the award in 2018 as a member of the Houston Rockets.
Embiid’s ascent makes him the second consecutive center to win the award, following Jokic’s two victories. Consider the two Antetokounmpo won upfront, the last five MVP awards have now gone to players who are generally treated as big men. This is a big change from the last decade or so in NBA history, as before Antetokounmpo, the previous 11 winners were all perimeter players.
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While he had publicly denied in recent seasons that he cared whether or not he won the award, he finally admitted that he did care in an interview with Showtime’s Rachel Nichols. “One thing I want to say is if people tell you they don’t care, they’re lying,” Embiid said. “That’s the best award you can get as a basketball player, it means a lot. If I won it, it would validate all the work I put into it. That’s why I cared, because you put so much work into it and when you get that recognition, it just confirms that you haven’t wasted your time.”
Now Embiid finally has the prize he coveted, but he has a much bigger prize to pursue. While Embiid called the MVP the best award you can get as a basketball player, most agree that the Finals MVP trophy is a much bigger trophy. Embiid has a chance to secure that in the coming months, and if he does, this will be one of the best seasons in NBA history.