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Joel Embiid doesn’t know what he has to do to be league MVP

After going neck and neck with Nikola Jokic throughout the season, the Sixers’ star finally missed out on the top individual award. Indeed, he had some things to say about that and they were definitely worth noting.

Paul Rudder
Embiid on Jokic winning MVP: "I'm not mad"
Michael ReavesAFP

The Sixers center has at more than one occasion advocated for himself being awarded the MVP title, but to date it has eluded him and he’s not happy about it.

Joel Embiid frustrated about MVP snub

From an injured back, to his team’s Game 5 loss to the Miami Heat and then a re-aggravation of his orbital fracture, Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid has had a rouhgh time of late. To make matters worse, Embiid was put on the spot when asked posted game what his thoughts were about the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic clinching the MVP title. Embiid said that he wasn’t surprised about the news, and had been expecting the result ever since a straw poll showed most voters were leaning towards Jokic. Though apparently not bothered, the Sixers star did share his opinion about the voting process.

“Obviously, congrats to Nikola, he deserved it. He had an amazing season. There’s no right or wrong. There was a lot of candidates. It could have gone either way. Giannis, Devin Booker being on the best team in the league by far, so I guess every year it’s all about whatever you guys decided, whatever fits the narrative as far as who’s going to win.” This is an interesting point here as Embiid seems to be implying and correctly so that there were other valid candidates despite what came down to a ‘two horse race’ between Jokic and himself. The question here is, however, does Embiid have a point? While there is clearly an emotive i.e. narrative aspect to the way in which votes are cast, is it truly the case that you can have a player awarded the title of MVP without actually being the best player in the league?

Will the real MVP please stand up?

If there were no narrative involved, it stands to reason that players like LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo would win the MVP every single season in alternating fashion. What is ironic here is that in some ways that’s possibly why Embiid didn’t get the award. “But to me, the only thing I’ll say about these awards is that, until, I don’t know how to explain it. I go back to what I heard on a podcast. Bill Simmons basically saying ‘f--- Jalen Green.’ If you’re going to allow these type of people to vote on these awards, that’s not fair. What if Jalen Green was in a position to earn a supermax, or I don’t know, an All-Star appearance? You’ve got someone sounding like that and has a lot of power. He can sway a lot of other media members and you got someone saying that type of stuff, I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s OK.”

It’s important to note that while there a degree of truth in what Embiid says, it also conveniently glosses over the actual MVP discussion and instead implies that the media is solely responsible for the final outcome. Is this the case? Hardly likely. Yet, Embiid’s bigger issue here can’t be ignored, which is to say there are indeed consequences that can be felt by players both on a financial and social level when it comes to award voting. “That’s really the only thing I’ll say about those awards. I’m not mad. The last two years in a row I’ve put myself in that position. It didn’t happen. It’s almost like at this point, it’s whatever. Whatever happens, happens. Last year I campaigned about it, this year I answered questions when I was asked, and the next, you know, few years before I retire it’s almost like I don’t know what else I have to do to win it. To me it’s just whatever. It’s all about - not that I wasn’t focusing on the bigger picture but it’s really time to really put all my energy into the bigger picture which is to win the whole thing.”

What does it mean to MVP?

With Embiid wondering openly about what he has to do in order to be named MVP, we are faced with an age old conundrum in sport. Even more so when considering the aforementioned notion of narrative. Could it be that the Sixers’ big man has undermined his chances of winning the award simply because he has said openly that he should? Is he truly deserving of the award when compared to the newly crowned Nikola Jokic? Valid questions perhaps, but in truth the one thing that could potentially be argued is this: Embiid was vying for the MVP title in a season when there was quite frankly a plethora of other superb talents on show - Jokic being one of them. With that in mind, could it be that he hurt his chances of collecting the award by saying that he should?


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