It’s amazing to think that since the NBA started handing out their much-coveted MVP award each season, only five non-American players have been bestowed the honour.
The great Nigerian, Hakeem Olajuwon, was the first in 1994, before the Canadian Steve Nash created a slice of history by winning the title back-to-back in 2005 and ’06.
The first European MVP came in 2007, when the Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki of Germany got the nod, before Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019 and 2020) and Nikola Jokic (2021) of Greece and Serbia respectively were crowned the best in the business.
Perhaps there will be a fourth European MVP come the end of the 2021-22 season. Luka Doncic was knocking on the door during the last campaign before being pipped at the post by Jokic. However, if the Slovenian continues to mature as a player then this could be his year to shine.
The issue, perhaps, is that his Mavericks team – unlike in Nowitzki’s era – is pretty ordinary, and they are considered no more than outsiders to thrive in the Western Conference. Indeed, they are the underdogs in the betting on the NBA games with Betfair for their curtain-raiser against the Atlanta Hawks on October 22.
Averaging 27.7 points, 8.6 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game last term, Doncic would – in a better team – be almost a shoe-in for MVP status if he produced those figures again. But the award typically goes to a player that features in the first round of the play-offs at the very least, and so the jury is out on whether the 22-year-old can join an exclusive club of European NBA MVP winners.
The German trailblazer is widely considered to be one of the finest power forwards to ever take to the court, and his MVP status broke new ground for European players seeking their shot at the big time.
Incredibly, the Milwaukee Bucks drafted Nowitzki in 1998 and then immediately traded him away to the Mavericks, where he enjoyed a stellar eleven-year career.
The numbers speak for themselves – he is a 14-time All-Star, 12-time All-Pro team member and, at the time of his retirement, he stood sixth on the NBA’s all-time points scorer list.
The MVP award in 2007 was the icing on the cake, and that was followed four years later by the Finals MVP trophy.
One of the finest all-court players of the modern era, Giannis Antetokounmpo has almost single-handedly taken the Bucks to greatness in recent years.
The ‘Greek Freak’, as he is known, is a two-time MVP winner at the age of 26, and has also won Finals MVP honors after sweeping the Bucks to the championship last season.
Fire up the NBA betting tips of the experts and you will note that the Bucks are amongst the favorites to defend their crown, while Giannis hotly-fancied to win a third MVP award – that would put him level on three with the legendary Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Moses Malone.
If basketball is a numbers game, then the digits stack up for Nikola Jokic – he delivered 26.4, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per match on his way to MVP status in 2020-21.
The Serbian, still only 26, has plenty of years left in him to add to that collection, as well as a haul of three All-Star nods while at the Denver Nuggets.
But will he be able to stop Doncic from stealing his crown in 2021-22?