An International NBA MVP

Preface: When Trae Young was taken over Luka Doncic in their NBA Draft class, I was baffled. Trae Young is an explosive offensive weapon, but Luka Doncic was clearly the better overall player. In the sports world, people did not have faith that another European player, even though Luka is a generational talent, would succeed in the NBA. Looking back, they were wrong.

I still am surprised that people have this stigma about foreign players not being as good as American grown players. In this guest article, Alan Pina explores two frontrunners for the NBA's MVP award who are both from countries other than the United States.

Enjoy his thoughts below.

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NBA MVP International 

By Alan Pina

Watching the NBA becoming global is something else. Their marketing and outreach around the world has made them accessible to showcase the best athletes including 107 current international players. What I have been amazed by is this year's Most Valuable Player award coming down to two international players. I believe this trend will continue to happen since more international players are coming in and establishing themselves as franchise players. The more that do this, the more will be mentioned as MVP candidates and future NBA legends. 

Two of these MVP-caliber players are from different continents and both had to overcome different obstacles to be in the league. One overcame not playing for two seasons and almost gave up on his basketball career. The other had to overcome a body-image stereotype of not looking like the typical basketball player. Both are not just top 10 NBA players, but may be the two best centers in the league.

Joel Embiid from Cameroon and Nikola Jokic from Serbia are the guys who are being considered frontrunners for the MVP award and leading their teams to great seasons. They average a combined 57 points and 22 rebounds per game and their skill sets translate nicely to a faster NBA game. Joel is a dominant big man controlling the paint for the Sixers and Jokic runs the Nuggets' offense to get all of his teammates involved.

Joel Embiid - A Potential International NBA MVPPhoto Credit:  

Having these two players as MVP frontrunners and the last two MVP awards going to Giannis Antetokuonmpo from Greece, has come to show the league will continue to grow globally. International players have a long way to go though as only four international players have won the MVP. That number will increase as the best basketball players will want to play and succeed in the NBA. 

Nikola Jokic - A Potential International NBA MVPPhoto Credit:

As we embrace international players, the game will grow more and foreign nations will want to put more resources to developing their players. When Embiid and Jokic play at historic levels with their countries at their back, their homelands do not only feel proud, they also feel responsible to develop the next generation of players. This goes not only for developing NBA talent, but talent for the national team to compete in the Olympics and FIBA World Championships.

Be on the lookout for more international players to join the league with better MVP aspirations like Jokic and Embiid. The game is growing and how we view these players from around the world should also change. They have to be taken seriously because in the end, they can produce fantastic results for a franchise.

. . .

Alan Pina is the co-founder of Pineapple 22 Media, and co-host of The Soarin Sports Podcast. His passion for sports is at his core and he loves to talk about it. When he is not podcasting, his hobbies include going for walks, traveling, and cooking with his wife Lori, along with dancing, watching movies, and reading. He currently is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Relations at Brigham Young University-Idaho and will be graduating in July.


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