In addition to the traditional year-end individual honors, the first-ever NBA Awards show also features several awards voted on by fans in slightly less formal, and more highlight-heavy, categories. And the winners are …
DUNK OF THE YEAR: Victor Oladipo on Dwight Howard
We had a feeling this might wind up in this spot way back when it happened. Sure enough, the Oklahoma City Thunder guard’s two-handed cram on the (then) Atlanta Hawks center wound up outshining Larry Nance Jr.’s titanic throwdown on top of new teammate Brook Lopez and Zach LaVine’s monster facial on Phoenix Suns big man Alex Len.
Nance Jr., for his part, seems to want a recount.
And, I mean, can you blame him?
Larry Nance Jr. didn't take home the trophy, but his dunk over (future teammate) Brook Lopez was still incredible. pic.twitter.com/OLgMHIx6MW
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) June 27, 2017
ASSIST OF THE YEAR: Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
This off-the-jump-ball, three-quarter-court, double-lob alley-oop dunk from Dray to Steph to Kevin Durant in the NBA champions beat out a no-look over-the-head dime from Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and this slick wraparound bounce pass by Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers to take home the award for the year’s best on-court connection.
BLOCK OF THE YEAR: Kawhi Leonard on James Harden
The play that “makes [Leonard] special”, snuffing out a potential game-tying bucket late in the Spurs’ March victory over Houston, beat out this dynamic Kristaps Porzingis cuffing of a Spencer Dinwiddie drive and an awesome catch of a Pascal Siakam floater by Miami Heat shot-swatter Hassan Whiteside.
PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR: Klay Thompson scores 60 points in three quarters
It takes something pretty special to outclass a pair of 50-plus-point triple-doubles by Russell Westbrook and James Harden and Devin Booker popping for 70 points to earn a tie for the 10th-highest-scoring game in NBA history. Dropping 60 in 29 minutes (and on 11 dribbles!) sees to qualify, though.
GAME-WINNER OF THE YEAR: Russell Westbrook beats the Denver Nuggets
With all due respect to Kyrie Irving’s Christmas Day dagger to beat the Dubs and Phoenix Suns rookie Tyler Ulis’ stunner to knock off the Boston Celtics, this category — and this season — belonged to the MVP.
As our Ben Rohrbach wrote at the time:
In a season when Westbrook has made the triple-double appear routine and led many to wonder if the statistical anomaly had lost some of the meaning it gained as part of [Oscar] Robertson’s folklore, the Thunder point guard found a way to write a storybook ending to his season-long chase. He reminded everyone just how incredible the achievement is and how near-impossible a player you have to be to complete it.
Seriously: the dude hit a buzzer-beater to get 50 points on the night he set the record.
BEST PLAYOFF MOMENT: Kevin Durant’s game-winner to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals
Durant faced stiff competition in this category, going up against a pair of emotional and remarkable moments from the Eastern Conference semifinals: Isaiah Thomas’ remarkable 53-point performance in Game 2 against the Washington Wizards on what would have been his late sister’s 23rd birthday, and John Wall’s game-winning 3-pointer to knock off Boston in Game 6 and force a winner-take-all Game 7 for the right to go to the conference finals. In the end, though, KD’s ice-cold dagger in the face of LeBron James to finish off a remarkable late Warriors comeback and put the Cavs in an 0-3 hole in the NBA Finals won the fans’ vote, just as the Warriors won it all.
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