The NBA had their first-ever NBA Awards show last night and while it wasn’t the smoothest production ever, it was very good. So much better than when they used to just hand out awards at press conferences at random times throughout the playoffs.
And of course, the biggest award of the night was the MVP. The award that had been debated all season. And in the final voting, it wasn’t really that close. In fact, it was a blowout. Russell Westbrook received 69 of 101 first place votes, with James Harden collecting 22, Kawhi Leonard nine, and LeBron James receiving one.
I’ll be real. I was riding with Harden much of the season because the numbers were close and his team was better, but late in the season, Russell changed my mind. Because there was no way to ignore what he was doing. First player since Moses Malone in 1981 to win the MVP award on a team that won fewer than 50 games, but he just did too much to be passed over. Led the league in scoring, third in assists, tenth in rebounding.
He broke Oscar Robertson’s record for triple-doubles in a season with 42 and joining the Big O as the only players in NBA history to a triple double for the season. Everyone has seen that shot of Russ staring at Kevin Durant’s MVP trophy from a few years back. He’s eyeing that like it owes him money. And when KD left for Golden State, everyone joked that Westbrook would go scorched earth. That he would go out and average a triple double to make sure he won the award. Except he did just that.
32, 12, and 9 in his first game of the year. 51, 13, 10 in the second. And 33, 11, and 16 in the third. Those are video game numbers and yet they became a nightly occurrence. Any one of those would be a career game for nearly everyone who’s ever thrown on an NBA jersey, but for him they were essentially average.
Then there were nights like the 45 point outing in Boston in December, on 13-of-25 from the field, to go with 11 rebounds and 11 assists. 57, 13, and 11 at Orlando in March. 50, 16, and 10, including a 36-foot bomb that beat the Denver Nuggets, eliminated the Nuggets from playoff contention, and broke the Big O’s record all at once.
And when he finally received the award, he was emotional.
A truly well-deserved award.