The start of the new year continues to bring in positive news for the Utah Jazz. Forward Lauri Makkanen has been voted The Finnish Sports Person of the Year. It’s been the first time ever this award has been given to a basketball player.
The prestigious award is chosen annually by the national sports journalists going back to 1947. Interestingly, the award was given 24 times to skiers before Markannen won this year.
2023 was a breakout year for Markannen. After being acquired by Utah in the Donovan Mitchell exchange in September of 2022, Markkanen has exceeded expectations around the league.
In his first year in Salt Lake City, he averaged 25.6 points while hauling in 8.6 rebounds. Those numbers were enough to earn his first All-Star appearance as well as The Most Improved Player of the Year.
Markkanen isn’t showing any signs of slowing down in 2024, either. He’s putting up similar numbers with a 23.6 points and 8.6 rebounds stat line, but more importantly, has led the Jazz back into the playoff conversation. Utah is currently one game removed from the eighth seed in the competitive Western Conference.
Setting basketball aside, Markkanen was busy in 2023 serving his country. Markkanen began his compulsory military service on April 17, 2023, at the Santahamina, Finland, military base and finished his duty on September 29, 2023.
Next on the list for Markannen could be his second All-Star appearance. The competition is much stiffer this year, but the way it’s trending, it’s plausible he makes it. If he gets voted in, it will have to come from the players and media vote. Markannen hasn’t cracked the top ten thus far in the fan vote.