Russell Westbrook’s historic NBA season culminated with him hoisting the Most Valuable Player trophy and breaking down on stage.
An emotional player on the court, Westbrook couldn’t fight back the tears as he thanked his family last night. “That’s who I play for,” Westbrook said at the NBA’s first prime-time awards show at Basketball City. “Every night you see me scream, bang on my chest, everything I do is for my family because they sacrificed so much for me.”
Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for a season. His incredible season came after former MVP Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State and won a championship. The Thunder guard received 69 first-place votes from the panel of 100 media members and beat out Houston’s James Harden and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy right now,” Westbrook said.
Other winners included Houston’s Mike D’Antoni (Coach of the Year), Golden State’s Draymond Green (Defensive Player of the Year), Houston’s Eric Gordon (Sixth Man of the Year), Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (Most Improved Player), Golden State’s Bob Myers (Executive of the Year) and Milwaukee guard Malcolm Brogdon (Rookie of the Year).
Brogdon, the No. 36 pick in last year’s draft, is the first non-first- round pick to win the award in the common-draft era since 1966.
The event was hosted by Drake with performers Nicki Minaj and 2 Chainz, but it was the most decorated player in the room who stole the show. Bill Russell, who won 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons, was given the Lifetime Achievement Award. After taking the stage, he pointed at each of the five big men on the platform — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo — and said, “I would kick your [expletive].”
D’Antoni, a former Knicks coach, also had a good line when he accepted his award after leading the Rockets to a 55-27 mark in his first season as Houston’s coach.
“I never thought I would be in New York and have to thank the sportswriters for Coach of the Year,” D’Antoni said.
D’Antoni was considered someone who revolutionized the game by playing fast and going small. It didn’t work with the Knicks, as he went 121-167 in 3 ½ seasons, but it worked very well with the Rockets. The Warriors, winners of two championships in three years, also have benefited from playing that style.
“We tried some things and we tried to build it, and then it just didn’t work out, and for a lot of reasons, not just one,” said D’Antoni, who resigned in 2012. “What Golden State has done the last three years, that validated and got me back in the game.
“I wish we had won more, a little bit more stable. If we knew now probably the way we need to play, people would be a little bit more patient. But that’s not New York’s way. But hey, it was great.”
The lone Knick nominated for an award was Kristaps Porzingis for Block of the Year for his swat-and-snatch in one motion of Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie’s shot. But Leonard won the award for his game-saving block on Harden, as voted on by the fans.
Dirk Nowitzki was named Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker received the NBA Sportsmanship Award, as voted by his peers.