NEW YORK — The first thing Russell Westbrook couldn’t do on his own was hold a brand new MVP trophy.
“It’s heavy,” he said, right-hand gripping the long sought-after prize by the neck before handing it back to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, so he could take out the notes for an acceptance speech. The wait was over. The man who had to do everything all season could finally rest with the gold in hand and the trophy in Silver’s.
“I'll probably give it to my [newborn] son, most likely,” Westbrook said of his first MVP trophy. “Honestly, I can't wait to get back to the hotel and give it to him real fast.”
Of course, the trophy may still be bigger than baby Noah Westbrook. But Westbrook's comments after leaving the stage at Monday evening's NBA Awards Show in New York stayed in line with an acceptance speech that preached the value of family throughout, singling out his parents, or his younger brother, Ray, who he said texts him at halftime of each game.
That was no surprise, though. Westbrook is always quick to mention family first.
Officially becoming MVP when presenter Adam Silver announced it to conclude the show shouldn’t have come as a surprise, either, even if the regular season wasn’t fresh on anyone’s mind. The awards ran more than two months after its final game.
Westbrook received 69 of a possible 100 first-place votes. Fellow finalists James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs received 22 and nine, respectively. Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James received one.
But everyone knew the award was Westbrook’s heading into the night. Bovada even set the line for him to win MVP at 1:50 earlier in the day. That means bet $50 to win $1. Yet, inevitability didn’t take away from sweetness.
“I'm just overwhelmed with joy, honestly,” Westbrook said. “Just happy to be here. Didn't know I'd be standing here with the MVP trophy next to me.”
Westbrook accepted the award with other members of the Oklahoma City Thunder organization in the crowd. General manager Sam Presti was in attendance along with coach Billy Donovan, chairman Clay Bennett, assistant GM Troy Weaver, assistant coach Mo Cheeks and more Thunder staffers. Teammates Enes Kanter, Victor Oladipo, Taj Gibson, Andre Roberson and Nick Collison were there, as well.
“Got to [show up], man,” Roberson said. “That’s like my brother, my teammate, and I’ll support him in any way.”
Westbrook called the five teammates present up on stage during his speech. Kanter, no surprise, was the first to bear hug him once he spoke his last word into the microphone.
“They always had my back. They made my job very very easy. They supported me,” Westbrook said. “They let me go out and compete at a high level. I’m just so glad to have those guys as my brothers.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder star became the second player ever to average a triple-double for a season this year, putting up 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double in 1961-62. But Westbrook now has more trivia to add to the résumé.
This isn’t, after all, just another MVP.
He’s the first MVP to come from a team that failed to win 50 games since Hall of Famer Moses Malone garnered the award on the 46-win Houston Rockets in 1982. He’s also the first MVP to come from a playoff team as low as a No. 6 seed. Malone in ‘82 was also the last man to do that. The Thunder reeled off 47 wins this season.
Westbrook’s season is now one that can live in counting stat history, a year in which he averaged career highs in points, rebounds and assists. He was the only NBA player to finish in the top 10 in all three of those categories.
Yet, he spent much of the year eluding questions about triple-doubles or the MVP. Answering those types of inquiries isn’t his style. And he insisted midseason wasn’t a time for reflection.
But it’s not midseason anymore. The regular season is done. So are the playoffs. The draft has come and gone. Westbrook finds himself with a new best friend in his life. And during all that elapsed time, even before garnering an accolade he spent an entire season lunging for, he’s found time to reflect.
“It’s funny. I kinda do it all the time,” Westbrook said. “I’m always up in the middle of the night with Noah at like 3:30, that’s the time we’re always up. He’s got to get fed, and I’m always up in the middle of the night with him. And I always sit there and look at him and thank God.”