The sport that was once reserved for Americans is now being conquered by hungry Europeans and Africans. A Serb, Greek and Cameroonian has been the best in the NBA this season. It gives hope for Norwegian talents.
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Whoever wins the generous MVP trophy, the award for the league’s most valuable player, will be made public in June – but the voting is taking place these days.
There is a highly acclaimed panel of NBA journalists in charge of the votes, and there are three favorites that stand out:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece (Milwaukee Bucks)
- Nikola Jokic from Serbia (Denver Nuggets)
- Joel Embiid from Cameroon (Philadelphia 76ers)
All three play at a historically high level, all three appear to be going to the NBA Finals, and all three were born outside the United States.
– It is good for the league and for the sport that the NBA has become so international, says former national team player Magnus Midtvedt to VG.
- The final round of the NBA is played Sunday. You can follow it «NBA 360» on VG + Sporta program that jumps from battle to battle so you get everything at once.
Midtvedt was in VG’s NBA studio when Nikola Jokic earlier this year had a “triple-double” against the Brooklyn Nets.
A “triple-double” is to have a double-digit number of points, rebounds and goalscorers in the same match.
He has done that 19 times this season. Next on the list is Dejounte Murray with 13.
– Jokic has carried a weakened Nuggets team without Jamal Murray all year, and is actually (incredibly) even rougher this year than his MVP season last year, Midtvedt says about Jokic.
– I think it’s between him and Embiid. Still believe in Embiid since Jokic and Antetokounmpo have already won it before, he says about the MVP race.
Therefore, everyone can win
But there are good arguments for all three.
Cameroon’s Joel Embiid may be the first center since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 to have the most points per game in the NBA. At the time of writing, he is 0.1 points ahead of LeBron James.
– Embiid had been in the NBA elite for many years, but he has really made it to the vote in 2021/22. His consistency and injury-freeness have managed to keep a turbulent Philadelphia season on a steady course, NBA writer Tim Bontemps told ESPN.com.
Serbian Nikola Jokic could be the 13th player to win the MVP trophy two years in a row.
– He is in the top ten in points, returns, assists per game and hit percentage – something no one has done in the last 50 years, argues ESPN reporter Ohm Youngmisuk.
Giannis Antetokounmpo could become the 9th player with three MVP titles.
– He can win “season defender”, and become the highest scoring player. The argument for Giannis as MVP is only getting stronger and stronger, says ESPN’s Jamal Collier.
Waiting for «basketball Zuccarello»
Midtvedt believes that the fact that no Americans interfere in the discussion will help change the league.
– I think the international players stand out now because they have been trained early with technical skills and tactical readings in collective play to a greater extent than the Americans who have long been alone in the world top and won a lot on their raw athletic qualities, he says.
– The NBA has long wanted to globalize, and this means that the sport is growing. I also think it inspires Americans to look more at technical and tactical skills from an early age. They have also brought this to the point in Stephen Curry, who has revolutionized the way basketball is now played. Trae Young is perhaps the first result that follows – and he will hardly be the last.
– What does it mean for Norwegian NBA hopes?
– Such a style of play also gives us Norwegians hope to get, for example, our own Harald Frey (BC Göttingen) into the league. Here it is good to follow. Soon we will have “basketball Zuccarello” in the NBA …