And the award for most ill-conceived idea goes to…the NBA Awards!
The second annual NBA Awards show was held yesterday in Santa Monica, California and broadcast on TNT. In attendance was a decent cross-section of past and present luminaries and featured all the regular-season awards yet to be distributed, such as Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, and of course, Most Valuable Player along with others like the Lifetime Achievement Award and Sager Strong Award.
And if this is what can be expected from future iterations, it might be time to put the show out to pasture.
The ceremony was hosted by actor and comedian Anthony Anderson, who came out wearing suit shorts, an homage to LeBron James in the playoffs and/or Beaver Cleaver after Sunday school. Facing an audience that seemed as enthused about being there as the crowd at the DMV, Anderson lobbed a few jokes in his opening monologue, most of which are still aloft above LAX as of writing this, waiting to land.
Alcohol would’ve been a better ice breaker.
Fortunately, the show got the presentations underway quickly, with DJ Khaled and Kelly Rowland up first to present the Rookie of the Year. But Khaled, presumably still afflicted with lockjaw, knew what the people were really there for and made sure to get a plug in for his upcoming album before announcing Ben Simmons as the winner.
That was followed by the presentations for Most Improved Player (Victor Oladipo), Defensive Player of the Year (Rudy Gobert), Sixth Man (Lou Williams), and Coach of the Year (Dwane Casey) in short order. Tyson Chandler of the Phoenix Suns presented the DPOY award alongside actor Ken Jeong. For anyone interested in watching that (or in practicing your cringe face), here it is:
The show culminated with MVP honors, awarding the Maurice Podoloff Trophy to James Harden of the Houston Rockets, wearing a Guernsey-inspired suit. The big reveal possessed the same suspense as the Oscars pitting Casablanca against a slate of Ernest movies for Best Picture.
Interspersed with the awards was plenty of product placement that was totally not a cash grab or shoehorned in awkwardly. Viewers learned via E.J.’s Neat-o Stat of the Night that Joel Embiid will grace the cover of NBA Live 19, the second-best basketball video game in a two-game field. Travis Scott’s mid-show performance was brought to everyone by JBL. And a commercial for Post-It Extreme Notes showed the world how vital Post-Its were in the building of the 2018 NBA Awards set, at one point performing the critical role of labeling a plastic box truck filled to the brim with cables as “cables.” What a time to be alive.
Even the Lifetime Achievement Award, which went to Oscar Robertson (who gave a very good acceptance speech, by the way), was sponsored by Kia. Come on!
The highlights of the night — aside from the acceptance speeches from Robertson and Dikembe Mutombo (Sager Strong for his work in his home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) — were Bill Russell flipping Charles Barkley the bird on camera, a solid jab about Harden’s defense from Anderson that left the soon-to-be MVP speechless, and a discussion amongst the Inside the NBA guys about Barkley’s sweating that led to the reveal of Sir Charles’ tequila of choice (Don Julio 1942). But these moments were few and far between.
Even worse, not a single iota of it was necessary.
For years, the NBA presented its regular-season awards during the playoffs, putting on press conferences for the winners and handing the trophy off at midcourt if the player was still in the playoffs. But in 2017, the league scrapped that and instituted the NBA Awards in a clear attempt to monetize one more aspect of the game. The result is a stilted two-hour display of avarice that leaves most winners fumbling for words on stage.
It’s so gratuitous that LeBron didn’t even bother to attend despite being a finalist for MVP. Kevin Durant also chose not to attend, and he won the NBA Cares Community Assist Award.
During his presentation of the MVP award, commissioner Adam Silver said, “Tonight’s award show officially concludes the 2017-18 NBA season.” That is not true. The 2017-18 NBA fiscal year concludes on Jun. 30, but for the vast majority of NBA fans, the 2017-18 NBA season concluded on Jun. 8 when the Golden State Warriors finished their sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The late-June NBA Draft is the start of the following season for fans, many of whom made up their minds about the winners months ago in lieu of an official announcement by the NBA.
As a friend of mine put it when reminded about the show, “I forgot all about that [expletive].”
The logic behind putting a regular-season awards show after the NBA Draft — and two-plus months after the end of the regular season — is next to incomprehensible, but even justifying slotting it immediately after the playoffs would involve dodgy logic. And there is just something strange and off-putting about the NBA Finals MVP being awarded before the regular-season MVP.
Here’s hoping the NBA abandons this bald-faced attempt to line its pockets and scraps the NBA Awards altogether. No one needs to see Deandre Ayton or Mikal Bridges potentially stammering his way through an acceptance speech in late June of 2019. Just hold the press conference, hand off the trophy, and do so before fans lose interest.
Seriously, Adam Silver. Write yourself a note if need be. I hear good things about Post-Its.