PHILADELPHIA -- Over the course of his career, Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid has stated multiple times that he would like to win the MVP award. It has long been a goal of his. So, it's understandable he would be a bit let down after finishing second to Nuggets center Nikola Jokic in MVP voting this season.
In all, Embiid received just one-first place vote -- compared to five for Steph Curry, and Jokic's 91. Ultimately, the race wasn't very close with Jokic besting Embiid in total votes 971-586. Yet while Embiid did admit to being disappointed, he isn't dwelling on the award loss as he has turned his focus to a loftier goal -- leading the Sixers to their first NBA title since 1983.
"There's only some things I can control. As a team we had a good year, and I was part of it. So, it's disappointing because as a player, you work hard for moments like this," Embiid said after Tuesday's Game 2 win. "But then again, it's out of my control. There's nothing I can do about it. I've just got to come out every year and just be ready and do my job.
"I'm focused on the playoffs. I'm focused on winning the championship. Like I've been saying all season, we got a good chance. So I'm not worried about the awards and stuff. If and when I'm holding the [Larry O'Brien] Trophy, anything else won't matter."
Embiid's numbers this season -- 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 blocks and a steal per game -- were certainly MVP-worthy, but he also missed 21 games during the regular season, while Jokic played in all 72. Although that wasn't the only factor that led to Jokic winning the award, it was undoubtedly a major one. But while Embiid didn't win the award, he was unquestionably the Sixers' MVP this season, and that's good enough for the guys in the locker room with him.
"We're not really worried about that," Sixers forward Tobias Harris said of the award voting Tuesday night. "Jokic had a great year. Congrats on the MVP for him. Joel Embiid has had a great year, he's been the MVP for our team. Obviously, there was a period of time where [Embiid] didn't play X amount of games. I think obviously that played a factor into it, but if we get to the Finals, and that's the goal for our team, [he can] go get the MVP there. So that's just our mentality."
Plus, just because Embiid didn't win the award this season doesn't mean that he won't in the future. Embiid is still just 27 years old, and he has a lot of great basketball ahead of him. Now that Embiid has elevated himself into the top of the MVP conversation, he's likely to stay there for the foreseeable future.
Like Embiid, Sixers coach Doc Rivers was disappointed the award went elsewhere, but he did concede that Jokic was well deserving of the hardware.
"I was disappointed Joel didn't win MVP, but I thought, when you think of Joker, and what he's done all year and that he's played in the amount of games that he played in, he was the worthy winner," Rivers said. "A lot of times you have to have an MVP season, the year before, before you become the MVP, and same thing with any of these awards."
Obviously Embiid wanted to win, but coming in second in MVP voting is no reason for him to be discouraged. Being the consensus second-best player in the entire NBA in any given year is still extremely impressive. In fact, Embiid is the first Sixers player in the last 20 years to finish in the top two in MVP voting. The last time it happened was when Allen Iverson won in 2001. Iverson's Sixers squad lost to the Lakers in the Finals that season, so while Iverson did get to add the Maurice Podoloff Trophy to his mantle, he didn't get to hoist the Larry O'Brien. Embiid is now hoping to make the opposite occur this season.