Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid has won the 2023 KIA NBA Most Valuable Player Award, which is the first of his career. The league announced the results just as the month of May was getting underway, but all of the votes were due at the end of the regular season.
Embiid campaigned for the award throughout the year, and the vote actually didn’t turn out as close as what was expected. The 76ers star led the NBA in scoring this season and has shown steady improvement throughout the year.
The NBA team stats do tend to matter when voters take a look at voting for this award, and the great season for the Philadelphia 76ers mattered in this decision. While getting the Sixers into the playoffs helped Embiid secure the award, it was his individual play on offense that won over the voters.
Embiid Put Up Huge Numbers
It took a while for Joel Embiid to start to really dominate at the NBA level, but he has shown steady improvement over the last few years. Everything seemed to click this season as Embiid was able to dominate opponents on a nightly basis.
As mentioned above, Embiid was able to lead the league in scoring this season as he poured in 33.1 points per game. Since Embiid rarely shoots any shots from behind the arc, nearly all of that work was done in the paint.
Embiid was also solid on the boards as he finished 8th in the league by grabbing 10.2 rebounds per game. Voters tend to look at some defensive numbers when voting for the award, and Embiid has emerged as one of the best players in the league on that end of the floor as well.
Injuries were a bit of a concern for Embiid throughout the year, as he was only able to play in 66 games. That was one reason that the voting was in question a bit, as other players were able to get on the floor more this season.
Embiid is such a tough cover for opponents because he can put the ball in the basket in a number of different ways. He shot nearly 86 percent from the free throw line this season, and he makes teams pay if they try to foul him and put him on the free throw line.
Great Trio of Finalists
Before the NBA announced the winner of the MVP Award, the league announced the three finalists based on the voting results. Joining Embiid in the group of finalists was Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Both Jokic and Antetokounmpo are previous winners of the MVP Award, including Jokic as he had won two straight awards. Many NBA experts believed that this was going to be a tight battle between Jokic and Embiid, but that wasn’t the case when the final votes were revealed.
Embiid received 73 of the 100 first-place votes, while Jokic was only able to pick up 15 of them. There might have been a bit of voter fatigue as Jokic didn’t receive a ton of consideration despite averaging a triple-double from the center position.
The final point total for Embiid checked in at 915 points, and Jokic finished in second place with just 674 total points. Antetokounmpo received the other 12 first-place votes, and his point total came in at 606 points.
Jayson Tatum finished in fourth place for the KIA NBA MVP Award as he collected 280 points. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander received the fifth most points for the award, as his total came in at 46.
One thing to note about the 2023 NBA MVP voting was that LeBron James did not receive a single vote for the first time in his career. James did miss plenty of time this season, and Anthony Davis emerged as the best player on the Los Angeles Lakers.
First-Ever Winner of Michael Jordan Trophy
Not only was this the first-ever MVP Award for Joel Embiid, but he will forever be known as the first player to hoist the Michael Jordan Trophy. The league announced several new changes to individual awards, and naming the MVP Award after the best player in league history was an easy call.
Jordan was a five-time winner of the MVP Award during his career, and he actually could have won several more along the way. This new trophy is made of bronze and features a crystal basketball that the bust of the Hall of Famer is reaching for.
The NBA worked hard to make this trophy represent the legendary career of Michael Jordan, and it’s 23.6 inches tall and also weighs 23.6 points. 23 is the number that was famously worn by Jordan, and he won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls.
The other new names of trophies released by the NBA include:
- Jerry West Trophy: KIA NBA Clutch Player of the Year
- Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy: KIA Defensive Player of the Year
- Wilt Chamberlain Trophy: KIA NBA Rookie of the Year
- John Havlicek Trophy: KIA NBA Sixth Man of the Year
- George Mikan Trophy: KIA NBA Most Improved Player
Embiid Moved to Tears During Ceremony
Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers had little trouble getting past the Brooklyn Nets in the First Round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, as it was a four-game sweep. Philadelphia was actually able to finish off that series without the league MVP as Embiid was out of the lineup with an injury.
Embiid missed the first game of the second-round series against the Boston Celtics, but his teammates were still able to deliver a win. The NBA MVP was back in the lineup for the next two games, but he was unable to push his team to a victory.
The First Round Series win by the Sixers allowed the team a chance to honor Embiid before a home playoff game. That celebration took place before Game 3 of the series with the Boston Celtics, and it was clear that Embiid was feeling pretty emotional about receiving the award.
Embiid grabbed the microphone to address the crowd, and he actually appeared to be holding it together during his first few words. That all changed when he invited his son on the floor, and Embiid was moved to tears during the ceremony.
Life in the NBA hasn’t always come easy for Embiid, and the center actually admitted that he contemplated retirement early in his career. He has been able to bounce back after a slew of crushing injuries, but he has cemented his place as one of the best players to ever wear the Philadelphia 76ers uniform.