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How many Europeans have won individual NBA awards?

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MUNICH (Germany) – The 2023-24 season NBA awards were dominated by Europeans, headlined by the announcement of Serbian star Nikola Jokic as the MVP once again after another incredible Regular Season campaign.

French duo Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembanyama also earned individual accolades as Defensive Player of the Year, and Rookie of the Year, respectively to add to the long list of European stars to enjoy success in the NBA.

Most Valuable Player

Jokic landed his third NBA MVP award after overcoming fellow international stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luka Doncic in the voting. The Joker averaged an insane 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists for Denver Nuggets during the regular season; adding to his accolades from 2021 and 2022.

The Serbian superstar made a long-awaited FIBA EuroBasket debut in 2022, but was unable to lead Serbia to the podium – maybe that changes in 2025?

Giannis Antetokounmpo had become the first European player to win back-to-back MVP awards after doing so in 2019 and 2020. The Greek Freak is also chasing a first EuroBasket medal with Greece falling at the Quarter-Finals stage in his two appearances so far, in 2015 and 2022.

The duo followed in the path of Dirk Nowitzki, who made history in 2007 as the first European-born player to be crowned NBA MVP. The German carried the torch having already become an international legend, with Nowitzki earning MVP honors at FIBA EuroBasket 2005 when his nation finished as runners-up.

Rookie of the Year

Wembanyama became only the third European to take the mantle of Rookie of the Year in the NBA having exploded onto the scene as the #1 pick in San Antonio. The Frenchman made his senior national team debut as a teenager in 2022, and will be one of the most coveted stars at next year’s FIBA EuroBasket.

Legendary Spaniard Pau Gasol was the first European to collect the award in the NBA back in 2002, before going on to become a two-time EuroBasket MVP and winning the title on three occasions. Meanwhile, Luka Doncic ended a 17-year wait for another European recipient with an impressive debut campaign for Dallas Mavericks – having already made a name for himself as a EuroBasket winner with Slovenia in 2017.

Defensive Player of the Year

Gobert joined an exclusive group of four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year award winners by adding the 2024 crown to those won in 2018, 2019 and 2021. The Stifle Tower is yet to win a FIBA EuroBasket title with France, but was part of the roster that finished as runners-up in the 2022 edition.

Marc Gasol – a two-time EuroBasket winner with Spain – became the first European recipient of the award in 2013, followed by French center Joakim Noah a year later. Giannis Antetokounmpo doubled up in 2020 as the MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year.

Most Improved Player

Lauri Markannen scooped the Most Improved Player award in the 2022-23 season for Utah Jazz off the back of a dominant showing for Finland at the last edition of EuroBasket. The Finnish forward joined a long list of European players to be recognized for their improvements in the NBA.

Romanian Gheorghe Muresan was the first European to receive the award in 1996, before Boris Diaw followed suit a decade later with the Frenchman going on to win a EuroBasket title with France in 2013. Hedo Turkoglu claimed the award in 2008 having previously helped Turkiye to a runners-up spot at EuroBasket in 2001.

Goran Dragic scooped the Most Improved Player accolade in 2014 – three years prior to leading Slovenia to a historic EuroBasket title as the MVP, while Giannis Antetokounmpo enjoyed a breakout year with Milwaukee Bucks in 2017 at the start of his rapid rise to the very top of the game.

Sixth Man of the Year

It’s been 28 years since the last European won the Sixth Man of the Year award when Toni Kukoc earned the honor in 1996 – going on to win the first of three NBA Championships with Chicago Bulls. The Hall of Famer won the FIBA EuroBasket title on two occasions with Yugoslavia, in 1989 and 1991 as MVP, and also represented Croatia.

Detlef Schrempf became the first non-American to win the award in 1991 with the Indiana Pacers, and the repeated the feat a year later. The German made two EuroBasket appearances in 1983 and 1985 – when he made the All-Tournament Team.

Finals MVP

There have been four European stars to take home the top honor of NBA Finals MVP. Tony Parker was the first to do so in 2007 having led San Antonio to a 4-0 series sweep for the third of four NBA titles, and the Frenchman would go on to lead his country to a EuroBasket title as MVP in 2013 on home soil.

Nowitzki followed suit in 2011 to lead Dallas Mavericks to their maiden Championship in an upset over Miami, while Giannis Antetokounmpo inspired Milwaukee Bucks to a first NBA title in 50 years in 2021 before Jokic helped Denver Nuggets to their own historic Championship in last season’s Finals.

Could there be another added to the list next month? The likes of Jokic and Doncic are still in contention in the midst of the NBA Playoffs, albeit facing early deficits in the Conference Semi-Finals.

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