The NBA Players awards showed that the NBA has finally reached its goal of becoming a true global brand.
This is Just the Beginning for the NBA
When Giannis Antetokounmpo was awarded the NBA MVP, it was well deserved and a great sign for how much the game continues to grow overseas.
Giannis joins elite global company 🌎 pic.twitter.com/yZquhua17l
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 25, 2019
A few years ago he was a shy kid from Greece who just wanted a chance to make the league as he expressed in this video:
— Dee (@SPEAKYOURMINDst) June 25, 2019
The best part of that video other than the fact that it was only 6 years ago is his humility. He genuinely just wants to get a chance to make it to the greatest league in the world and go from there. The way in which his game has evolved over the 6 years since that interview is truly astonishing.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 25, 2019
Even though he’s won the game’s ultimate individual prize, he still has a lot of work to do. The way the Toronto Raptors were able to shut him down in the playoffs means that his game still has another level to go. His entire demeanor let’s you know that as much as he loves this award, he would rather an NBA championship. Ultimately as a superstar, you will be judged by what you do in the playoffs. To think that Giannis has another level that his game can go to is very scary for the rest of the league. If he can develop a consistent jumper, we could potentially be looking at one of the all time greats when its all said and done.
The Rest of the Awards Belonged to the International Community
The rest of the night’s awards belonged to international players. The Rookie of the Year award went to young star Luka Doncic from Slovenia. The rookie sensation lived up to the hype which was deserved after a very impressive final season playing in Europe. His game seems mature beyond his years and he will only continue to improve as his conditioning gets better and his confidence continues to grow.
"I've never seen anything like Luka Doncic."
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) June 25, 2019
The Defensive Player of the Year award went to Rudy Gobert of France who missed out on the All Star game this year. He was very upset by that snub but this award is one that cements his legacy within the game. It’s his second time winning this prestigious award and there aren’t many that can make that claim at his age.
Finally, we have the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award that went to Pascal Siakam from Cameroon. The young man just helped the Toronto Raptors win their first NBA championship in franchise history. In another sign of the game going global, this is the first NBA champion from outside the United States. Of course that is a formality as all of the major sports leagues in the United States have teams from Canada other than the NFL.
A testament to how much Siakam’s game has grown is the fact that he was probably the most obvious winner of the night. Nobody in the league improved the way he did this past year. Last season when the Raptors were swept by the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semi finals, he barely played. This season he was the second best player on a team that won the championship.
Earned Not Given.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) June 25, 2019
The journey that Siakam took to reach his NBA dreams is by no means a conventional one. That’s what makes him winning the award so satisfying. The global community that is basketball is searching high and low in all corners of the world for talent. If you can play, someone will find you.
Everyone who plays basketball outside the United States will have looked at last night’s award ceremony thinking that their dreams can in fact come true. These foreign born players didn’t just make it to the league, they are being recognized as some of the game’s best. The American players in attendance for the awards ceremony will have noticed the sweep by the international players. While it is fantastic for the game, their pride and egos will make them want to work that much harder so that moving forward that is not the case. What that means for basketball fans is an improved product and we are all thankful for that.