Which NBA player won 2022?
To answer that question, it's time for my annual "Golden Basketball" award -- which, like soccer's Ballon d'Or, considers performance across the NBA regular season and playoffs as well as international competition, distinguishing it from the league's regular-season and Finals MVP awards.
The 2022 Golden Basketball race is one of our most interesting yet. The 2021-22 regular-season MVP, Nikola Jokic, saw his short-handed Denver Nuggets eliminated in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 2021 winner, grabbed the unofficial title of world's best player during the postseason despite his Milwaukee Bucks falling in the second round.
On the other hand, Stephen Curry of the champion Golden State Warriors finally won Finals MVP honors, making the injury that sidelined him the final 12 games of the regular season a distant memory, while Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics led his team to the Finals.
A fifth superstar, Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, continued to state his case for Golden Basketball right up until the end of the calendar year, submitting a historic 60-point, 21-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in an overtime win over the New York Knicks on Tuesday.
Who claims the crown this year? Let's take a look.
Perhaps the single most dominant player in the 2022 postseason, Butler got a vote for the inaugural Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP award despite his Heat coming out on the losing end of the series after Butler missed a 3 that could have sent them to the Finals. Alas, injuries continued to limit Butler's regular-season value, as he played fewer than 60 games in the calendar year.