Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert was voted as the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year for the fourth time in his career, beating out rookie sensation and fellow Frenchman Victor Wembanyama.

Gobert – who previously won the award as a member of the Utah Jazz in 2018, 2019 and 2021 – joins Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace as the only players to be named the league’s top defender four times.

Gobert received 72 of a possible 99 first-place votes after anchoring the Wolves’ top-ranked defence all year. Wembanyama received 19 first-place votes to finish second. Bam Adebayo narrowly edged Anthony Davis for third, while Herbert Jones rounded out the top five.

The Timberwolves allowed an NBA-low 106.5 points per game this season, almost two points ahead of the second-place New York Knicks (108.2). Gobert played 76 games while averaging 12.9 rebounds (second in the NBA) and 2.13 blocks (sixth).

Many of Gobert’s teammates in Minnesota have said that Gobert helped cultivate a culture that values defence, which has been on display throughout the Timberwolves’ 6-0 start to the playoffs.

“This year, training camp, we came Day 1 and said we wanted to be a top defence in this league,” Gobert said on TNT while accepting his award. “Every guy has bought in. Everyone has put in the work every single day, and now we’re here with one goal in mind, to try to get this championship.”

Many fans and analysts criticised the trade that brought Gobert to Minnesota as too expensive for a limited offensive player.

Tim Connelly, the Wolves’ president of basketball operations, has seen his vision manifested beautifully, as Minnesota leads the defending champion Denver Nuggets 2-0 in their Western Conference semifinals series that continues Friday.

The future of this award seems to be firmly in the giant palms of Wembanyama, who led the NBA with 3.58 blocked shots per game.

Joakim Noah became the first French player to be voted Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, and Gobert has built on that with his impressive run.

It would not be shocking if Wembanyama, 20, had a similar run of dominance in the near future.