10 takeaways from the NBA awards: Drake’s a natural

A recap of what went down at the first ever NBA Awards including Russell Westbrook winning the MVP, Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni winning his 2nd Coach of the year award and Bill Russell taking home the lifetime achievement award.

Two months after the regular season ended, the NBA got together to honour its stars. In a ceremony that was part ESPYs, part NHL Awards, the inaugural NBA Awards was largely a hit with a few awkward moments where the kinks can be worked out.

In a Golden Globes-type of seating arrangement where players and coaches sat at tables and were served meals prom-style, the night was filled with cautious and uncomfortable laughter.

The players, coaches and owners were a tough crowd and too many fan awards that nobody cared about slowed the night’s momentum. (No disrespect to Victor Oladipo but the dunk of the year doesn’t necessarily move the needle.)

The star of the show was unsurprisingly Drake. The Toronto Raptors global ambassador killed in the show’s opening with a ruthless monologue that was the highlight of the night. However, a show that seemed like unnecessary filler in the first place found a way to go longer than the allotted two hours.

Drake didn’t sing or perform at all and left us with no viral moments like the hilarious side pieces ballad with Brian McKnight from the 2014 ESPYs.

It was an uneven performance by Drake in relation to the extremely high bar he previously set hosting the ESPYs and Saturday Night Live. But it was still an entertaining prime time extravaganza and showed the fun side of the league and the likeable side of one of Canada’s most popular exports.

Here are the top moments from the 2017 NBA Awards.

And the award goes to…

Most Valuable Player: Russell Westbrook

Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green

Most Improved Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Sixth Man of the Year: Eric Gordon

Rookie of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon

Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni

Executive of the Year: Bob Myers

You can check out the full list of winners here.

If there is a podcasting odd couple, this might be it. Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis don’t agree on much, but you’ll agree this is the best Toronto Raptors podcast going.

Draymond Green’s outfit comes up short

In a league where fashion is paramount and the dress code is now celebrated, it was not a surprise to see the red carpet on fire. Overall, the players looked dapper but of course Green couldn’t fall in line. He looked great in his bright green tuxedo jacket. His tuxedo shorts however, left a bit to be desired.

Despite his teal blazer, velvet loafer shoes with skull and crossbones and gold Yves Saint Laurent lapel pin, all people could talk about was his shorts.

Drake the comedian

Drake’s opening was the best NBA trash talk you’ll hear in a while. Nobody was spared but feelings were definitely hurt.

Brogdon Surprises winning rookie of the year

The night started off with a surprise winner as Malcolm Brogdon won rookie of the year. Quite the accomplishment for a second-round pick. In the lead-up to the award voting at the end of the season Brogdon lobbied the Bucks front office to take the money they were using for his promotional campaign and donate it to charity.

The voting was close and the Philadelphia 76ers rookies Joel Embiid and Dario Saric cannibalized votes from each other.

Brogdon also won the crowd with a heartfelt shout-out to his mom during his speech.

Strong skits by Drake

Drake isn’t just a musician. He also is an actor, dating back to his days on Degrassi. His comedic timing was on full display in a variety of skits. In the first, he co-starred with Will Ferrell and taught NBA handshakes. It included a cameo from Toronto Raptors all-star DeMar DeRozan and was so good it was split up into two parts.

Drake’s take on navigating tough press conferences had some really strong moments but dragged on a bit too long and fell prey to a few jokes that fell flat.

Drake took a shot at his good friends Stephen Curry and his wife Ayesha with a Get Out inspired sketch.

Shots fired at Kenny Smith

Move over Meek Mill and Chris Brown. Drake’s latest beef is with Inside the NBA analyst Kenny Smith. After “The Jet” took a shot at the host, the gloves came off.

Smith didn’t realize: He who has the mic last, has the last laugh.

LaVar Ball takes over Raw

If you expected to see LaVar Ball on Sportsnet One at the NBA Awards you were mistaken, he was doing his thing on Sportsnet 360. Technically Lonzo wasn’t in the league a year ago so there is no reason to celebrate the Big Baller Brand, yet. But the wrestling promoter that is LaVar found a way to steal some shine on the NBA’s night, showing up on RAW while the awards were taking place.

This wasn’t how most envisioned Lonzo to make his debut in Staples Center after being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers.

NBA Nicki

We didn’t get a Drake performance but there was one by his Young Money label mate. Nicki Minaj performed and was underwhelming at best.

Unless you were James Harden.

DJ Shaq shoots a brick

Shaquille O’Neal would have been a better rapper than Minaj but he had his own musical struggles. DJ Diesel did not know what button to push and what record to spin when given the chance live. If you listen closely, you can hear Shaq lamenting to Drake that something isn’t going as planned. That wasn’t the only time things didn’t go smoothly.

Monty Williams wins the Craig Sager award

Monty Williams, one of the most well respected and well-liked members of the NBA community, won the Craig Sager award for his perseverance and courage after his wife died in a car accident in Oklahoma City last season.

“This is about family. This is about your NBA family” Turner Sports host Ernie Johnson told Williams when he introduced him as the award recipient. “Oklahoma City. What happened in your city is not your fault. I couldn’t do what I did without you” Williams explained while accepting the award.

Williams perspective after his wife died was shockingly graceful.

The award is not only in honour of Sager, who lost his battle with cancer earlier this year, it started a tradition of giving the winner a tailored Jacket adorned with the colorful “Sager strong” pattern. Most touching was the sight of the five Williams children watching their father eulogize the memory of their mother once again. “Being a father is a privilege, it’s not my job it’s not a responsibility, it’s an honor” Williams said.

This is a great read by Chris Ballard of SI if you want more background on the character of Williams in the midst of tragedy.

Westbrook wins MVP

Kevin Durant got his championship, Russell Westbrook got his MVP. And of course, Enes Kanter threw some shade KD’s way.

To close the night, Russell Westbrook won MVP as expected and not only brought his teammates on stage to celebrate the moment he broke down when speaking about his family. It was a rare publicly emotional view of Russell who dropped the tried and true award speech cliché “I promised myself I was not going to cry” and even went as far as to thank the media. It was a touching end to what was a terrific night for the league and its star players.

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