As a last hurrah before the assuredly frantic Summer 2017 free agency begins, the NBA held its first ever awards show on Monday, June 26, 2017. Competing for airtime with LaVar Ball on WWE and the time-delay broadcast of the Big 3 League in Brooklyn, the show went off largely without a hitch, and most eyes wouldn’t have guessed it was the league’s first awards reception. In fact, aside from a poorly placed slave joke by the show’s host and some awkwardness when Drake interviewed Draymond (who he briefly roasted in the opening monologue), the broadcast ran smoothly, likely ensuring future NBA award shows on the Turner Sports Network.
Indeed the familial aspect of basketball shone throughout the night, from the delivery of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Hall of Famer Bill Russell, to the surprise Teammate of the Year Award to Dirk Nowitzki, as well as the thoughtful and impassioned Sager Strong Award bestowed upon Coach Monty Williams. For one night the largely viral nature of the NBA in 2017 was put on hold in exchange for a chance to honor the individuals who continually revere the game night after night.
More troublesome than the discussion of whether to continue this annual awards tradition is whether the members of the media should continue to be the deciders of such accolades. A quick glance across the receivers of votes denotes odd choices of some voters, namely the one 3rd place vote for LaMarcus Aldridge or the singular 3rd place vote for Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon for the Sixth Man Award.
Although we expect (or at the very least should expect) unbiased selections from media members, especially now that team-affiliated personnel are excluded, each year a rogue vote slips through in favor of some inane selection. Of course Hall of Fame, credentials worry less about the unanimous selection of award recipients than that they won it at all, but that writers and broadcasters who are solely involved with the game from a spectator’s point of view determine the winners is problematic. It should be noted that Sage Steele, who was relieved as the lead anchor of NBA on ESPN mid-season in favor of Michelle Beadle still received voting privileges, though she did see much of the 2017 season from her perch in the NBA media industry.
The league has already seen a turn towards giving players a voice to appreciate the talents they face off against all season long in the NBA Players Associations Awards, which began in 2015. Birthed out disdain for the media selections in years past, the NBA continued the trend in the 2017 NBA All Star Voting, which saw the media, players and fans join to determine who earns a nod to the midseason exhibition. Oddly, the NBA had relied on player votes for season awards until the 1979-80 season (the same year the 3-point line was introduced) and included measures that players could not vote for themselves or their teammates. Additionally, despite the modern NBA welcoming transparency, no easily accessible mention exists of why voting was skewed to the media post-1980 is mentioned in NBA hosted materials.
Whether the media or players vote on future NBA awards, one thing is certain; Russell Westbrook is the season’s MVP, a testament to his historic, triple-double crazed season and the birth of “Angry Russ.”
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