This year, the NBA honored the best of the past season in a new way. The league hosted a televised, star-studded event celebrating its players, coaches and best moments. The inaugural 2017 NBA Awards took place in New York City last night and, with the multi-talented Drake as the master of ceremonies, the show kicked off on a comedic note.
Joined by the “NBA on TNT” commentary team of Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley, the show featured signature awards such as “Rookie of the Year” (won by the Milwaukee Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon) and the “Defensive Player of the Year” (won by recent NBA Champion the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green), as well as fan-voted superlatives such as “Best Performance” and “Dunk of the Year.” Drake also made sure to throw some jabs at the Golden State Warriors, now-2x series champions, and their star point guard Stephen Curry, who was noticeably missing from the festivities, with a “Get Out”-themed skit.
The show also had a few touching moments. Ernie Johnson presented the first ever “Sager Strong” Award, in honor of the late TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager, who passed away this year from leukemia—instead of receiving a standard trophy the honor was complemented with a colorful floral suit jacket, paying homage to Sager’s eclectic sideline style. The award was given to Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams for his perseverance after the sudden and tragic death of his wife, Ingrid. Williams’ speech moved the crowd.
The final award of the night was also considered the most important, as the audience and viewers eagerly anticipated who’d take home the coveted Most Valuable Player honor. The winner was Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook, and “The Brodie” wasted no time giving thanks to everyone who helped him along his journey, including a special tribute to his parents, brother and wife.
Overall, the first-ever NBA Awards could be deemed a success, and while the absence of several of the league’s stars did raise some eyebrows, it’s safe to say the show can and will only get better over time.