Giannis Antetokounmpo’s historic year earned him a historic awards sweep. A person with knowledge of the situation says the Milwaukee forward is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season. The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league is not announcing the award until Friday afternoon.
The 25-year-old Antetokounmpo becomes just the third player in league history to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, joining only Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Antetokounmpos’ 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.
And the numbers weren’t inflated by big minutes, either. Antetokounmpo was fifth in the NBA in scoring, second in the league in rebounding but only 71st in minutes per game. He led the Bucks to the NBA’s best record this season, before Milwaukee were ousted from the playoffs by Miami in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
“Giannis, in our minds, has done more than enough to deserve back-to-back MVPs,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said when the team was in the NBA’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World this summer. “What he does for us on both ends of the floor, what he does every night, the way he sets the bar for us, culturewise, work ethicwise … he’s an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything. And I think that’s kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he’s very deserving.”
ESPN first reported that Antetokounmpo won the award.
Jordan won both the MVP and Defensive Player in 1987-88 and Olajuwon won both in 1993-94. Antetokounmpo came close to joining the club last season by winning MVP and finishing second in the Defensive Player balloting.
A handful of others have also been first and second in those categories in the same year. Kawhi Leonard was second in the MVP race and won Defensive Player in 2015-16, just as Dwight Howard was in 2010-11 and Alonzo Mourning in 1998-99. LeBron James won MVP and was second in Defensive Player voting in 2008-09 and 2012-13, and Shaquille O’Neal did so in 1999-2000.
But only two players had pulled off the sweep, until now.
James and Houston’s James Harden were the other MVP finalists this season. Antetokounmpo and James were the only players to be first-team All-NBA selections on all 100 ballots cast by the panel of global sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league.
Antetokounmpo also becomes the 14th player with multiple MVP awards and the second international player in that club, joining Canada’s Steve Nash. This is the fifth time that someone won MVP honors while playing for the Bucks. Only Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia and Chicago have had more.
He becomes the 12th player to win back-to-back MVPs after Stephen Curry, James, Nash, Tim Duncan, Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.