It feels fitting that the first Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP trophy went to a member of the Boston Celtics.
Jayson Tatum took home the award Sunday after helping lead his team to a 100-96 victory over Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the back-and-forth series. Tatum finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and one steal while hitting 4-of-7 from three-point range.
It was not a unanimous decision, though, as Butler received a vote in the losing effort:
That Butler was recognized in such a fashion wasn't particularly surprising since it was his individual brilliance that gave Miami a chance after it fell behind 3-2 in the series.
He finished Game 6 on the road with 47 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals to keep his team's season alive and then responded with 35 points and nine rebounds in Game 7 to give the Heat an opportunity to win even though the supporting cast struggled.
Bam Adebayo was also impressive with 25 points and 11 rebounds, but the rest of the Heat outside the two stars shot a combined 12-of-43 (27.9 percent) from the field. Yet even with those shooting issues, Butler had a chance to be the hero with a three-point attempt in the final seconds with his team trailing by two, but it didn't fall.
That means Tatum will have an opportunity to play in the NBA Finals for the first time in his career as a result.
The Celtics star scored 26 or more points in five of the seven games and averaged 25.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.1 steals a night throughout the series. He also shot 47.6 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from three-point range.
The 24-year-old's resume now includes an Eastern Conference Finals MVP, three All-Star selections and two All-NBA nods.
A Larry O'Brien Trophy is missing, but that may change if he plays at the same level in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.