Utah Jazz star Lauri Markkanen has been named Finland’s athlete of the year. He is the first basketball player ever to win the award. This adds to his already extensive list of first-time achievements for Finnish basketball players. Markkanen was the first Finnish player to be drafted in the NBA, and just about everything he’s done since then has been a first for his country.
VUODEN URHEILIJA 2023 KIITOS ❤️ pic.twitter.com/EMrlJSzjXM— Lauri Markkanen (@MarkkanenLauri) January 11, 2024
Markkanen’s win comes on the tail of a breakout 2023 season in which he was a starter in the NBA All-Star game and awarded the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Markkanen averaged 25.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season.
Congratulations @MarkkanenLauri on winning Finland’s Athlete of the Year— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 11, 2024
Lauri is the first basketball player to ever receive this award!
Fun fact: each year the baton is handed down from the previous winner featured with a note for the newest recipient. pic.twitter.com/OlGzb5wknd
The previous award holder and four-time winner, Livo Niskanen, is an Olympic skier with three gold medals, one silver, and one bronze. Most past award winners have been skiers or track and field athletes. Markkanen received 1998 votes and 126 first-place votes. Pole vaulter Wilma Murto was second in the voting with 1879 votes and 48 first-place votes. Rally driver Kalle Rovanperä was third with 1645 votes and 29 first places.
Markkanen continues to rack up accolades in an already impressive career, and at 26 years old, he’s just getting started.