In the NBA, there's plenty more than just a championship to compete for.
Players will downplay it and coaches will deny it, but there's much more to the Association than just title contention.
And we're not only talking about the pursuit of respectability or relevancy, but rather, the highly coveted reality of tangible distinction.
It's one thing for a player to know he's good at what he does or be told that he's exceptional at how he does it, but it's a whole other thing entirely to be officially recognized for it, and awarded accordingly.
Which is why the league's yearly awards are so important. Whether players and coaches admit it, such honors are more than merely agents of flattery—they're validation.
And more often than not, that can mean just as much as a championship ring.