The NBA world is about to turn its attention to weeks of speculation, rumors and free-agency madness, but it took one more night to celebrate the 2016-17 campaign in New York City.
Rapper Drake hosted the first-ever NBA Awards Show on Monday, as the league handed out a number of its awards for the 2016-17 season.
Russell Westbrook capturing the first MVP of his career served as the highlight, while Malcolm Brogdon won Rookie of the Year, Eric Gordon won Sixth Man of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo won Most Improved Player, Mike D'Antoni won Coach of the Year and Draymond Green won Defensive Player of the Year.
Marquee Individual Award Winners
MVP: Russell Westbrook (OKC) over James Harden (HOU) and Kawhi Leonard (SAS)
Rookie of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon (MIL) over Joel Embiid (PHI) and Dario Saric (PHI)
Sixth Man of the Year: Eric Gordon (HOU) over Andre Iguodala (GSW) and Lou Williams (HOU)
Coach of the Year: Mike D'Antoni (HOU) over Gregg Popovich (SAS) and Erik Spoelstra (MIA)
Most Improved Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) over Rudy Gobert (UTAH) and Nikola Jokic (DEN)
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green (GSW) over Rudy Gobert (UTAH) and Kawhi Leonard (SAS)
Marquee Play Award Winners (determined by fan vote)
Dunk of the Year: Victor Oladipo
Block of the Year: Kawhi Leonard
Assist of the Year: Draymond Green to Stephen Curry to Kevin Durant
Game-Winner of the Year: Russell Westbrook
Fans waited until the final award to see the one everyone would be talking about—the MVP.
Westbrook won his first career MVP in what was one of the most memorable races for basketball's greatest individual award in recent memory. From breaking Oscar Robertson's record for the most triple-doubles in a season to carrying his Oklahoma City Thunder to the postseason as a singular force after Kevin Durant left for greener pastures, Westbrook was brilliant.
Naturally, the award inspired different levels of reaction:
While the first NBA Awards Show ended with Westbrook's triumph, it knew to follow awards tradition and start with the host taking center stage.
Drake and actor Will Ferrell began with a skit where they portrayed coaches teaching their players, including Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan, how to properly shake hands after a clutch basket. Ferrell even warned, "If you score but your handshake sucks, we will trade you."
Drake also participated in a mock press conference and landed basketball-specific jokes in his opening monologue, including the suggestion New York is the city that never sleeps "because the players are all afraid of getting traded."
He also took aim at the Brooklyn Nets:
Drake wasn't the only jokester, as he exchanged barbs with TNT's Kenny Smith:
Dirk Nowitzki also tried his hand at comedy when he said he didn't think any of his own teammates voted for him when he won Teammate of the Year.
Elsewhere, Brogdon took home the first award with Rookie of the Year, while Gordon captured Sixth Man of the Year. Embiid congratulated Brogdon:
Other highlights included a performance from rapper Nicki Minaj, a skit with Drake playing Stephen Curry in the movie Get Out and a montage for Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker—who won the Sportsmanship Award.
Arguably the most memorable moment came when Bill Russell was given the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hall of Fame centers Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, David Robinson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all came on stage, and an extended video tribute recognizing his ability on the floor and his contributions as a civil rights leader off the court played.
He then caught everyone off guard when he told his fellow great big men "I would kick your ass":
Nothing could follow Russell's quip from a comedy standpoint, so the show handed out a few awards, with Antetokounmpo winning Most Improved Player, D'Antoni earning the Coach of the Year and Green capturing the Defensive Player of the Year.
The ceremony took a poignant and emotional turn when San Antonio Spurs vice president of basketball operations Monty Williams was given the Sager Strong Award.
Turner Sports PR shared the moving story behind the award:
Westbrook also became emotional during his acceptance speech to close the show, expressing love for his parents, wife, brother and teammates while inviting the Thunder on stage during a moving speech. He was one of the primary storylines throughout the 2016-17 NBA season, and his excellence was rewarded with the chance to lift the MVP trophy.