The NBA held their inaugural NBA Awards Show and the Oklahoma City Thunder racked up their fair share of accolades. First up, Russell Westbrook won the Best Style award voted on by the fans. I mean, was there even a debate with this award. This was the first of three fan awards the Thunder would win.
Next up, Victor Oladipo won Dunk of the Year for his viscous two-handed double pump on Dwight Howard in Atlanta. The dunk was so savage that Hawks’ management moved Howard to Charlotte under the assumed identity of Hight Doward.
The third fan award won by the Thunder went to Russell Westbrook who won Gamewinner of the Year for his 35 foot bomb in Denver that knocked the Nuggets out of playoff contention and capped off Westbrook’s record setting 42nd triple double.
One of the highlights of the evening was former Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams winning the inaugural SagerStrong Award for his perseverance after the tragic death of his wife, Ingrid. Even though Williams now works for the San Antonio organization, this tragedy occurred during his time in Oklahoma City. Williams’ first statement was directed at the city of Oklahoma City: “Oklahoma City, what happened in your city is not your fault. I couldn’t do what I did without you.” Even though I’m sure he would rather the events that precipitated his receiving the award be different, he was gracious in his receiving of the award and showed the world what a true man of God is.
And lastly, the pièce de résistance: the 2016-17 Kia NBA MVP Award. Ethan Rothstein of the Houston Rockets blog The Dream Shake did a spread sheet after the season in which he tabulated who different media members voted for via their various social media feeds. After a couple weeks of data-gathering, Rothstein came away with the conclusion that Westbrook was going to win the MVP. Being one of the people that helped Rothstein gather his information, I’ve kind of known for awhile that Westbrook was winning the award.
But as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was opening the envelope to announce the winner, there was still a little air of nervousness as to who would actually win the award. But alas, the spread sheet proved correct and Westbrook came away with the award.
Lately, the actual presentation of the MVP award has taken a back seat to the proceeding MVP acceptance speech. And Westbrook did not disappoint with his speech. For someone who wears his emotions on his sleeve while he’s on the floor, Westbrook is equally as guarded about his privacy when he’s not wearing a jersey. Even though there’s this air from Westbrook of being “the most interesting man in the world” with his fashion endeavors and recent expansion into the tech world, at his core Westbrook is just a simple family man. His entourage usually consists of his parents, his brother, his wife, and now, his son.
That side of Westbrook is the one NBA fans saw during his speech. He first started his speech by comically handing the trophy back to Adam Silver so that he could use his hands during his speech. Westbrook started his speech by going the natural progression of thank yous that usually takes place for these types of awards: the Man Above, the organization, the supporting staff for the Thunder. Then Westbrook asked his teammates who were in attendance (Nick Collison, Andre Roberson, Taj Gibson, Enes Kanter, and Victor Oladipo) to join him on stage. He went on to thank them and the rest of his “brothers for life” who could not make it.
Then he comically thanked the media for voting for him. He then progressed to the fans, especially the Oklahoma City fans, who stuck with him through thick and thin.
And then he got to his family. And this is where the real Russell Westbrook came out. You see, I’ve been privileged to take my daughter to his camp the last two years. There’s no denying I’m a Thunder fan. And with that, I’m a fan of Russell Westbrook, the player. But seeing him the last two summers, in his natural environment, surrounded by family, makes me appreciate Russell Westbrook, the man.
As a writer, I can only delve off of my experiences. I can’t tell you what life as a 50 year old Asian woman is like because I’m not a 50 year old Asian woman. I can only tell you how I see things based on my own experiences. And fortunately for me, I was raised in a loving household where my mother and father molded my definition of family. That definition of family, I saw in Westbrook during those July days at his camp. Even though our worlds may be light years apart, I can relate to Russell Westbrook, the family man.
So when he started on that part of his speech, I knew what was coming. His appreciation for his parents. His loving adulation for his younger brother, whom Westbrook referred to as his “role model.” The loving words for his beautiful wife Nina and their young son, Noah. Sometimes, words are just letters on a paper. But other times, words are expressions of a person’s soul. And in that MVP speech, Westbrook poured out his words on what was most important to him. There was nothing said about past teammates. That’s not what tonight was about. Tonight was about what was important to Westbrook: loyalty, brotherhood, family, love. Congratulations to the 2016-17 NBA MVP: Russell Westbrook.