On Monday, Nikola Jokic was voted the NBA MVP for the second-straight time. But the voters just as well could have announced that Jokic will not be in the running for next year’s trophy.
The native of Sombor, Serbia, has performed at a high level each of the past two regular seasons. But in back-to-back years, his Denver Nuggets have flamed out in the playoffs without it being Jokic’s fault.
Nikola Jokic in the first round:— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 28, 2022
57.5 FG% pic.twitter.com/Km7OXbNwvH
But if history tells anything, it’s that two MVPs and zero playoff success leads to exponential amounts of voter fatigue.
And that was after Giannis arguably played better than his previous two MVP seasons!
“But MVP Is a Regular Season Award!”
Wilt Chamberlain was the last player to win back-to-back MVPs without winning a title and then still win MVP a third time the next year (although he went on to win a championship the following year in 1967).
Otherwise, there is a solid precedent of not being considered for the award after winning it twice in a row and not winning a title.
Win it all? Then we’ll talk.
But here is a list of names that won back-to-back MVPs and then lost out on a third after two-straight non-championship-winning seasons:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won MVP in 1976 and 1977, not considered in 1978 after missing the playoffs in ’76. His Lakers only made the Second Round in ’77.
- Moses Malone won MVP in 1982 and 1983 and made the Finals both years but lost. In 1984 received just the 10th most votes for the award.
- Steve Nash won MVP in 2005 and 2006 but never made the Finals. He ended up with the second-most MVP votes in 2007 but lost to Dirk Nowitzki.
- LeBron James won MVP in 2009 and 2010 after making the Finals in 2008. He did not win in any of the three years and had to settle for third place in 2011.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo won MVP in 2019 and 2020 but lost in the Second Round both years. He was not a finalist for the award in the 2021 season despite it arguably being his best year of the three.
The Relationship Between Playoff Success and NBA MVP
Clearly, previous playoff success matters when considering MVP finalists. There has never been a threepeat MVP that didn’t win at least one title in the same time span.
Take this modern example: Giannis wins MVP in 2019 and 2020 and exits in the Second Round both years. In 2021, Antetokounmpo was not even a finalist for the award, but he does win a title. Now with a title and Finals MVP under his belt, he is back in the good graces of voters.
What a coincidence that he was considered an MVP finalist once again.
Antetokounmpo’s Bucks had a better or the same playoff seeding than every MVP finalist above him the past two years (except 2021 Joel Embiid, who also didn’t win).
This can be directly attributed to a concept called “voter fatigue.”
Voter fatigue occurs when a player achieves similar levels of success in consecutive seasons but still fails to be nominated for any corresponding awards because they did not do anything “new” (i.e., win a championship). Therefore, their achievements are seen as “more of the same.”
Jokic not even making the NBA Finals in either of his two MVP years is a strong indicator that he will be “fatigued out” of MVP voting for at least the next year.