The Roar
The Roar


NBA Double Dribble: ‘Larry Legend’ Jokic deserves to be favourite for third straight MVP

(Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
23rd December, 2022

Very rarely do MVPs win the award three times in a row in NBA history.

In fact, it’s only happened four times and the players who’ve done it are kind of a big deal. Their apartments were nothing bit rich mahogany and leatherbound books – Bill Russell (1961-3), Wilt Chamberlain (1966-68) and Larry Bird (1984-86).

Even Michael Jordan didn’t accomplish the hat-trick of MVPs although that was more so due to some strange voting policies in the 1990s when Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, as great as they were, burgled the trophy from MJ because he was just so damn dominant he set the bar too high for himself to continually impress the judges.

Denver’s understated superstar Nikola Jokic has a chance to become the fourth player to be named the game’s top individual player three years in a row.

DENVER, CO - JUNE 11: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets accepts the 2021 NBA MVP award before Game Three of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Ball Arena on June 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Nikola Jokic. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

And based on his efforts in the first 27 games for the Nuggets, he should be the frontrunner. 

It’s not just because he’s lifted Denver to the top of the Western Conference with a 19-11 record. 

Or because of his individual numbers – 24.7 points, 11 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game.


Not even because his support cast is still not firing on all cylinders – Michael Porter jnr has been injured again, Jamal Murray has not yet returned to his best as he comes back from his ACL tear and Aaron Gordon is defending well but is limited offensively. 

It’s because Jokic’s skill leaves opponents bewildered.

In the win over Memphis earlier this week, Jokic put on a show for the Mile High City folk, passing without looking over his shoulder or bouncing through defenders to set up teammates for open looks.

He’s the closest thing the NBA has seen to Bird’s golden years at Boston. 


Not an athletic specimen, a ground-bound savant who reads the game better than anyone else on the floor, including the coaches. 

He’s Denver’s point guard, centre, defensive presence in the paint and be-all and end-all of their chances to compete for the title.

Bird is the only player of the three-straight MVP trio who has won it via the media vote which started in 1980, the other two won the award when their peers decided who was the kingpin.

In times like these, Kendrick Perkins’ over-the-top hullabaloo is justified. 

“Jokic is the Most Skilled Center to ever touch the damn basketball. You can go argue with ya mama and Carry the hell on,” the ESPN analyst and former championship-winning centre tweeted.

He’d get no argument from Shaquille O’Neal, one of the greatest big men of all time, who was gushing in his praise in a post-game interview on TNT with the Denver dynamo.


“Joker, it’s Shaq O’Nealovilovic. From one big guy to another I just want to say from one it’s a joy to watch you play. You are the epitome of what a great big man should look like – scoring, passing being very unselfish. I love your game and I’m proud of you brother, keep it up.”

Oh yeah, and to set the scene for his scene-stealing effort against the Grizzlies, he entered the arena looking like a James Bond villain.

Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd had a reputation for getting teammates extra zeroes on their contracts 20 years ago in his prime. Jokic is doing the same for his Nuggets comrades. 

Gordon has reinvigorated his career as Jokic’s frontcourt partner after being overburdened as Orlando’s main man. Bruce Brown is dunking up a storm off Jokic feeds while Jeff Green, the journeyman’s journeyman, is defying age and gravity in his 14th season in the pros. 

Counting against Jokic in his hopes of a third straight MVP is the fact that even though his plays are spectacular, he doesn’t command the attention that comes the way of other superstars like Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum.

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 18: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets passes the ball against the Charlotte Hornets during the first half at Ball Arena on December 18, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)


Curry is out for a few weeks with a shoulder injury so his MVP chances have taken a hit, Doncic is also sliding as his Mavericks have slipped under .500, leaving Giannis, KD and Tatum as the Joker’s main rivals. 

Durant is sneaking up to the leading peloton by quelling the drama in Brooklyn and getting the Nets up to fourth in the East with a 20-12 record despite the early-season turmoil surrounding Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving and coach Steve Nash’s sacking as coach.  

Tatum’s Celtics are in a slight slump but they’ll come good while Antetokounmpo doesn’t even seem to be in top gear as he cruises to 31.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a night for the league-leading Bucks. 

Close but no cigar: Dual MVPs who missed the hat-trick

Giannis Antetokounmpo2018/19-2019/20
Stephen Curry2014-16
LeBron James2011-13 and 2008-10
Steve Nash2004-06
Tim Duncan2001-03
Michael Jordan1990-92
Magic Johnson1988-90
Moses Malone1981-83
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar1975-77 and 1970-72

Random NBA observations

Knicks are one piece away: After their surge to sixth in the East, the New York franchise is on its way, finally, to credibility. The next time a high-profile free agent is scouring the market, they will be looking at the Knicks (18-14) as a genuine option unlike a few years ago when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving wanted to team up but snubbed the Big Apple’s traditions to join forces in Brooklyn.


Of course, the Knicks being the Knicks could stuff everything up by making a dud trade midway through this season for an over-the-hill faded star, as has been their want.

Jingles all the way: It will take a few weeks to get back into game shape but Joe Ingles has returned to the NBA floor after a year out with a torn ACL. The Australian veteran was scoreless in his comeback game for Milwaukee against New Orleans and knocked in three points against Cleveland but importantly, he got 15 and 16 minutes of game time in each match without any knee dramas. He could be a valuable bench option for the Bucks in their championship push. 

Wolves should cast KAT aside: Speaking of trades, Minnesota (16-16) should dangle Karl-Anthony Towns on the block to see if they can get a decent haul. He doesn’t work well with Rudy Gobert in the frontcourt and more importantly, young star Anthony Edwards has been thriving the past couple of weeks while Towns has been injured. He’s the future, the Timberwolves need to invest in him by exchanging Towns for a younger wing option or two.