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Nikola Jokic tops Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo in closest three-way MVP race in decades

Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic in Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 14: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers talks to Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center on March 14, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Nuggets defeated the 76ers 114-110. 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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Nikola Jokic won 2022 NBA MVP.

Despite nearly a third of voters believing he didn’t deserve the award.

The hotly contested race was reflected in voting. Though capturing a majority of first-place votes (unlike this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Improved Player), the Nuggets center topped just 65% of ballots – lowest percentage by an MVP in 15 years. Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki won the award with just 64% of first-place votes in 2007.

Fellow 2022 finalists 76ers center Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo just weren’t that far behind Jokic.

Embiid claimed 26% of first-place votes – also most for a runner-up in 15 years. In 2007, Suns guard Steve Nash (34% of first-place votes) finished second to Nowitzki (64% of first-place votes).

Antetokounmpo got 9% of first-place votes – most for a third-place finisher in 14 years. In 2008, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett (12% of first-place votes) finished behind Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (65.1% of first-place votes) and New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul (22% of first-place votes).

Though their orders varied, a large majority of voters had Jokic, Embiid and Antetokounmpo in the top three of the five-player ballots. Every voter had Jokic, Embiid and Antetokounmpo in the top four. Suns guard Devin Booker (one second-place vote and eight third-place votes) and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic one second-place vote) were the only other players to crack the top three on any ballots.

So, Jokic (875 voting points), Embiid (706 voting points) and Antetokounmpo (595 voting points) towered over the rest of the field in the final tally.

But the margin between those three was fairly small – just 280 voting points separating the winner and third place. The last time the first-to-third gap was so small: 2002, when Spurs forward Tim Duncan (954 voting points) won MVP over Nets guard Jason Kidd (897 voting points) and Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal (696 voting points).

Here’s full 2022 voting with first-, second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-place votes and total voting points (scored 10-7-5-3-1 by place on ballot):

1. Nikola Jokic (Nuggets): 65-27-6-2-0-875

2. Joel Embiid (76ers): 26-39-34-1-0-706

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks): 9-32-52-7-0-595

4. Devin Booker (Suns): 0-1-8-49-22-216

5. Luka Doncic (Mavericks): 0-1-0-32-43-146

6. Jayson Tatum (Celtics): 0-0-0-8-19-43

7. Ja Morant (Grizzlies): 0-0-0-1-7-10

8. Stephen Curry (Warriors): 0-0-0-0-4-4

9. Chris Paul (Suns): 0-0-0-0-2-2

10. DeMar DeRozan (Bulls): 0-0-0-0-1-1

10. LeBron James (Lakers): 0-0-0-0-1-1

10. Kevin Durant (Nets): 0-0-0-0-1-1