James Harden of the Houston Rockets was announced as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player at the second annual NBA Awards in Santa Monica, Calif. on Monday (June 25).
From “Sixth Man of the Year to MVP,” James Harden said during his acceptance speech with his mother, Monja Willis, by his side. In 2012, Harden was named Sixth Man of the Year as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Six years later after being traded to the Rockets, the All-Star guard beat out four-time MVP LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis for the distinction. Harden felt like the award was due as he came up short last year to his former teammate Russell Westbrook, who averaged a triple double over the course of the season for the first time.
“The last four years I have been like knocking on the door, knocking on the door,” Harden remarked. “Now the moment is finally here. Just every single year you try to come back and be better than you were the year before, and just to be holding that trophy finally, it means a lot.”
The 28-year-old led the league in scoring this past season where he averaged 30.4 points per game, 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds. He also led the Rockets to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoff, where they fell one game short of the finals after Chris Paul suffered a season-ending injury.
This honor makes Harden just the third player in Rockets history to be named MVP, joining Moses Malone (1979, ‘82) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1994). Harden was not the only member of the Rockets franchise honored at the awards as the team’s general manager Daryl Morey took home the Executive of the Year award.
The awards were hosted by Anthony Anderson and featured a musical performance by rapper Travis Scott. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Oscar Robertson by TNT analyst Charles Barkley and six-time NBA champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. During Barkley’s introduction to Robertson, he acknowledged a table of NBA legends that included the likes of Bill Russell. Russell swiftly responded by flipping Barkley the bird.
“Sorry everyone I forgot it was live TV and I can’t help myself whenever I see Charles, it just is pure instinct,” Russell later wrote on Twitter.
Robertson, the master of the triple-double, graciously accepted his award. He still holds the record for the most triple-doubles, a NBA-best 181 times, in regular-season games.
Dikembe Mutombo was the recipient of the Sager Strong Award for being a trailblazer in his community.
There were five other awards voted on by the media aside from MVP including: Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man Award, and Defensive Player of the Year.
Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons was selected as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. He averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals over 81 games last season. Simmons was favored over Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell who set the NBA rookie record for most three pointers made (187) and Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum who played exceptionally well in his first NBA playoff appearance.
The other awards were fairly predictable as Dwane Casey, who ended the season with the best record in Toronto Raptors’ history, was named Coach of the Year before being fired. Victor Oladipo (Pacers) was named Most Improved Player while Lou Williams (Clippers) took home Sixth Man of the Year and Rudy Gobert snagged Defensive Player of the Year (Jazz).
Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year (voted on by the players): Jamal Crawford (Timberwolves)
NBA Sportsmanship Award (voted on by the players): Kemba Walker (Hornets)
NBA Cares Community Assist Award (voted on by fans and a panel of judges): Kevin Durant (Warriors)