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Gilbert Arenas: Nikola Jokic is the ‘worst’ MVP over last 40 years

Nikola Jokic, Gilbert Arenas, MVP
Is Nikola Jokic the worst MVP winner of the last 40 years? Former NBA guard Gilbert Arenas thinks so. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Gilbert Arenas: Nikola Jokic is the ‘worst’ MVP over last 40 years

Former NBA guard Gilbert Arenas recently had some strong opinions on current Denver Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic and his recent MVP seasons.

“(Nikola) Jokic is probably, statistically–when it comes to overall game–the worst MVP winner over the last 40 years,” he said earlier this week. “When you’re talking about MVP, (the winners’) teams were first and second place.”

Arenas cited Michael Jordan‘s 1987-88 MVP season–when the Bulls’ finished tied for third in the East and tied for the 7th-best in the NBA–when he averaged 35.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 3.2 steals as the points and steals leader; he also cited Russell Westbrook‘s triple-double MVP season in 2016-17 (Thunder were sixth in West; 10th in NBA), when he averaged a triple-double: 31.6 points (NBA-most), 10.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists, one of his four seasons averaging a triple-double and one of two winning the scoring title.

“In 2020-21, Jokic’s team (record) was fifth (in the NBA), he averaged 26 (points), eight (assists) and 10 (rebounds)–what was the historic part of that?” he asked. “There was no history. ‘Oh the big man almost had a triple double, let’s give it to him.’ That’s what the narrative was–a big man almost, not did–almost won the triple-double and they gave it to him when his team record was like that. His second MVP, his team was tied in 10th place (in the NBA): 27 (points), 8 (assists) and 13 (rebounds). What was historic about it?”

Why does his not doing something “historic” make him the “worst MVP winner over the last 40 years?” Why are we intentionally leaving out additional context as to why he was deserving of MVP? Why are we having bad-faith arguments instead of uplifting a player who will go down as an all-time great?

Of the 23 players who have won MVPs over the last 40 years, Jokic is one of nine who have won multiple MVPs and could be on his way to one of five to win three MVPs over that span.

Speaking of history: Jokic is the only player in NBA history–yes, not just in the last 40 years, but ever–to win the MVP while averaging 27 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists … winning nearly 50 games without two of his four best players (Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr.) for practically the entire season. That feels historical to me, does it not? He’s also one of two players ever (Westbrook the other) to win MVP while averaging at least 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and the only player ever to do that twice. History!

He is averaging 26.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists in 74 games this season, shooting 57.9 percent from the floor, 34.2 percent from the 3-point line and 82.3 percent from the free-throw line. If he sustains this current track, he will be the only player in NBA history to win MVP while averaging 26 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. He just won a title, and is in the middle of one of the great primes we’ve seen in recent memory from a 7-footer … and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

There’s even more context to be had about all of these seasons and why he was the eventual winner over his respective peers. Plus, only eight players in NBA history have won at least three MVPs while 14 have won at least two. How could he be the worst to win one over nearly a half-decade? Make it make sense.

Also … who cares who’s the worst or who’s the best? How about let’s stop tearing players who are all-time greats, or who are on track to becoming all-time greats, down and appreciate their superstardom. God forbid we (as basketball fans) can’t appreciate greatness for once in our lives without trying to dismantle it for no apparent reason.

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