Milwaukee Bucks of America’s Nigerian-born sensation, Giannis Adetokunbo (Antetokounmpo) has won back-to-back awards as the most valuable player in USA’s National Basketball Association (NBA), thereby becoming only the third star in history to get the gong alongside that for best defensive player during a single season.
Megasportsarena.com reports that the 25-year-old Greece international is now the third player in league history to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, joining Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and another Nigerian-born basketball legend, Hakeem ‘The Dram’ Olajuwon.
Jordan won both the MVP and Defensive Player awards in 1987 and 1988 and Olajuwon won both in 1993 and 1994. Antetokounmpo came close to joining the club last season by winning MVP and finishing second in the Defensive Player balloting.
‘The Greek Freak,’ who was in Athens, Greece on holiday with his family when the NBA’s 2020 MVP award was announced late Friday, received 85 votes from the 100-person panel of global sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league, plus the one additional vote granted by winning fan balloting.
Antetokounmpo’s second straight MVP award, despite failing to take his side to the NBA Eastern Conference finals, comes some 48 hours after he was selected top of the log for number one spot in the All Stars’ A-team that will be in action against B-team in an exhibition game at the end of this season’s action.
However, while Antetokounmpo makes the NBA All Stars’ selection for the second season running and is still considered on course to win the most valuable player award back-to-back, there is no place for his fellow-Nigerian-born trio of Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), OG Anunoby (Toronto Raptors) and Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers).
Antetokounmpo, though, is joined by LeBron James in unanimous selections on the first team, along with Luka Doncic, James Harden and Anthony Davis, thereby giving Los Angeles Lakers two spots in the top squad for the upcoming All Stars’ Game.
Antetokounmpo, who earned four All-NBA honours, including two to the first team, and James both got first team votes on all 100 ballots to finish with 500 points each; while Houston Rockets guard James Harden (474 points; 89 first team votes), Lakers forward-center Anthony Davis (455, 79) and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (416, 59) all also shipped in huge quotas as well.
James, whose total includes a record 13 selections to the first team and was named in past years twice to the second team as well as once to the third, set a record with his 16th All-NBA team selection, surpassing the 15 set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan.
Harden and Davis are voted to the All-NBA First Team for the sixth and fourth time, respectively, while 21-year-old Doncic makes his All Stars’ debut in his second season and is the first player selected to the first team in either his first or second season since Duncan in 1998-99.
James and Davis are the eighth pair of team-mates to each All-NBA first team honours during a season and they are the first team-mates to do it since Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire made the same marks during the 2006-07 season with Phoenix Suns.
The All-NBA Team was selected by a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters, during a process that saw players awarded five points for each vote to the top squad, three points for each vote to the second team and one point for each vote to the third team.
LeBron James’ selection is the 16th All-NBA honor of his career, the most all time, having previously tied with Duncan, Abdul-Jabbar and Bryant with 15; while his 13th first-team selection is also an NBA record.
While LeBron got the other 15 first-place votes and finished second in the MVP ratings, James Harden of Houston Rockets finished third, but Antetokounmpo’s numbers this season were unprecedented, with averages of 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.
Nobody had ever averaged those numbers over a full season; Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor both had seasons where they topped Antetokounmpo’s averages for points and rebounds, though both fell just shy of matching his assist average.
The numbers were not inflated by big minutes, with Antetokounmpo fifth in the NBA in scoring, second in the league in rebounding but only 71st in minutes per game, as he led The Bucks to the league’s best record this season, before they were ousted from the playoffs by Miami Heat.
The Bucks’ star, who also becomes the 14th player in history with multiple MVP awards and joins Canada’s Steve Nash as the second non-American in that category, said he was thrilled to join a class of legends on the awards’ list, but told NBA commissioner, Adam Silver to hang on to the trophy until he returns to the US from the country of his birth, where he is now on holiday.
Antetokounmpo said: “It feels good to get this award announced when I’m back home. It’s been a long journey. The people that know me, that know my story, you can never take these moments for granted. I’m happy for this award but I want more. I’ve got to keep getting better.
“I want to be a champion. Michael Jordan is one of the best players who’s ever done it, if not the best. Hakeem, a guy that I look up to, he came from where I’m from, Nigeria, where I have roots. Just being in the same sentence with them, that means a lot to me.”