Mar 14, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) drives to the basket against Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers star center Joel Embiid won the 2023 NBA Most Valuable Player Award.

However, many fans and league observers thought that the prestigious award should have gone to Denver Nugget center Nikola Jokić.

Those opinions only got louder as Jokić and the Nuggets swept LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals after Embiid and the 76ers suffered a humiliating defeat to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs.

Jokić, for his part, contended that NBA sachems got the decision right after Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

“I don’t think about MVPs anymore,” Jokić said. “I mean, I think it’s — people are just mean in saying that Embiid shouldn’t have won it. I think he should have won it. I think he was playing, if you watch it, extremely, extremely tough basketball through [the] whole season … He was really amazing in 82 games or how many games he played.”

While Jokić claimed not to care about MVPs anymore, his coach, Mike Malone, had a different take. He thought the tone of the race might have gotten to his star player.

“You know, this is the first year where I think — I don’t know this for a fact,” Malone said. “He never told me this. But in my opinion, I think the negativity around the MVP race I think did get to him. I can’t blame him. The guy goes out there and does his job every night and he is being criticized.”

Whatever the case may be, it certainly worked out for the Nuggets and their fans.

[CBS Sports;photo from Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports]