Nikola Jokic stands with his two older brothers.
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Shaq Told Nikola Jokic To His Face, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Should Be MVP

Nikola Jokic won his third MVP in the last four seasons, receiving 79 first-place votes (926 points), while Shai-Gilgeous Alexander came runner-up with 15 votes (640 points). Third place went to Luka with four votes (566 points).

After the results were announced, the 1999-00 MVP, Shaquille O'Neal did not shy away from expressing his thoughts, while doing an interview with the Serbian big man on the TNT broadcast.

"I want to congratulate you," Shaq said to Jokic. "But I want you to hear it from me first, I thought SGA should have been the MVP. That's no disrespect to you."

"I don't like to rain on people's parade, but I'm not happy with this one," Shaq said on TNT's Inside The NBA. "Congratulations to Joker, you are the best big man in the league, but based on everybody's criteria, my criteria, stats, your guys' criteria, number-one seed, which team has the better record, I felt Shai Alexander deserved it."

Gilgeous-Alexander was famously traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Thunder ahead of the 2019-20 season. The trade package included the Clippers giving up seven first round draft picks and pick swaps, in addition to SGA and Danillo Gallinari in exchange for Paul George. Important to remember, during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, the Thunder combined for 46 wins, and now SGA, in his sixth season, has led the team to be atop of the Western Conference standings this season with a 57-25 record.

That is to say, Jokic's Denver Nuggets also finished with the exact same record (57-25; Home 33-8, Away 24-17); nevertheless, the first-seeded Thunder had a better division record, while also winning the season series, 3-1 vs. the second-seeded Nuggets.

As the playoff race is currently unfolding, SGA's Thunder are 1-0 in their second-round matchup with the Dallas Mavericks, while the Nuggets are trailing the Minnesota Timberwolves 2-0 in their semi-finals series.

Shaq went on to defend SGA, "I've been number two a lot, when I played my a** off, number two, so the fact that he has to start all over next year and try to win it again, I know that's going to be hurtful for him. Hopefully he uses this to motivate him to win a championship."

"I felt I was robbed two or three times," O'Neal also said about himself. "Don't name it 'most valuable player' then. It goes to the most valuable player in the league, and that was me, the most valuable player in the league [this season], that was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander."

With this in mind, Shaq finished runner-up for the award during the 1995 season, as a player for the Orlando Magic, in addition to also finishing in second during the 2005 MVP voting, the year he won a championship with the Miami Heat. As he notably won the award during the 2000 season with the Lakers, averaging 29.7 points (57.4 FG%), 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 3.0 blocks per game.

Shaq referenced that 25-year-old, SGA scored 30+ points in 46 games this season, averaging 30.1 points (53.6% FG; 35.3% 3PT), 5.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.0 steals (tied for league-best) and 0.9 blocks. 

After hearing Shaq give his thoughts, the Nuggets' big man stated, "There's alot of players that deserve it. You know it's probably [is decided by] the details and small things."

As the MVP, in his ninth season, Jokic averaged 26.4 points (58.3% FG; 35.9% 3PT), 12.4 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks. To note, he had 25 triple-doubles this season, 130 throughout his career, which ranks him fourth on the all-time list. Not to mention, after playing in 79 games this season, Jokic now joins Wilt Chamberlain as the only other player in NBA history with multiple seasons being top-5 in the three major categories: points (5th), rebounds (3rd), and assists (2nd).

"It's got to start with the teammates; without them, I cannot do nothing," Jokic said Wednesday on TNT after being announced as the MVP. "Coaches, players, organization, medical staff, strength coaches, development coaches. It is all one big circle. But I cannot be whatever I am without them."

The only other player to receive three MVPs in a four-year span is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980). Furthermore, the only active NBA player to have more MVPs than Jokic is LeBron James, who has earned four throughout his career (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013).