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Mark Jackson apologizes for ‘absolute mistake’ leaving Jokić off MVP ballot

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 25: ESPN analyst Mark Jackson looks on prior to the game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on February 25, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Celtics defeated the 76ers 110-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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Joel Embiid — who won the award — appeared on every one of the 100 ballots cast for MVP by a panel of media members. So did third place Giannis Antetokounmpo.

However, second place Nikola Jokić appeared on 99 — one voter left him out of the top five. It became an issue that reached the level of being discussed on TNT’s Inside the NBA, with Charles Barkley saying, “There was one person, I don’t even know this fool’s name, [who] didn’t even have Joker in the top five. People like that shouldn’t get a vote.”

That voter turned out to be former All-Star player turned head coach turned ESPN/ABC analyst Mark Jackson (some NBA fans looked it up once the official votes were released). Jackson owned his mistake, calling Eddie Johnson and Justin Termine on SiriusXM NBA Radio and apologizing for the error.

“One thing I live by, you make a mistake, you own it. I’m not a guy that does it for clicks or to be trending. Absolute mistake made by me. You can tell, I probably, in thinking how did I make that mistake? You can tell I put one center, two forwards and two guards. So I wasn’t even thinking. I apologize to the Denver Nuggets. I apologize to Nikola Jokic, who is not only in the MVP discussion and deserved to be on my ballot, but he’s one of the greatest players in the history of this game. And he is a top 10 center of all time. So I own it. If you wanna take away my vote or do whatever more than welcome, I made a mistake. He deserves, in my opinion, to be clearly, I would’ve still voted for Joel Embiid the MVP, but with Giannis and Joker second and third. They deserve that. Incredible year by him. He continues to make history. I own the mistake and I apologize.”

Credit to Jackson for stepping up and admitting his error. He thought it was like an All-NBA ballot with positions (at least this year) and voted Embiid in as the center, leaving Jokić in the cold (Jokić was Second Team All-NBA because of the positional requirement).

To give a little context, it’s far easier to mess up and vote for the wrong person — or not realize your mistake — on an NBA awards ballot than you would think. I’ll admit this is the ultimate First World problem, but the electronic ballot sent to voters from Ernst & Young uses pull-down/drop-down menus to vote for players. In the case of MVP, all 200+ players who qualify by playing enough minutes are in that drop-down menu, and it’s easy to pick the wrong person. The system is not well set up to review your choices as you do it, and while there is a review at the end by that point it’s easy to treat it like the Apple customer service agreement and just click past it. (For the record, I am a voter and have realized a mistaken vote in the past.)

It didn’t end up impacting the outcome of the award vote or anybody’s contract, it’s simple human error. One Jackson admitted to.