Chafed over the NBA imposed wait between the conference finals and the much anticipated Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals? Then you’re going to love the NBA Awards Show, which is still two and a half weeks away.
After years of successfully creating buzz and playoff narratives by handing out hardware during the playoffs, the NBA is turning things on their head. Instead, Adam Silver and crew will cash in on their awards by hosting a full-fledged awards show hosted by Drake with a performance by Nicki Minaj on June 26.
While it makes sense for the league, for fans it’s pointless and poorly planned.
So, here it is. The official case against the NBA Awards Show:
There’s No Anticipation: We already know who won the MVP Award
It’s not worth spending too much time on this after our thorough accounting of the 2017 NBA MVP Award. With a month to go until the trophy distribution, we found 72 of the 100 NBA MVP first place votes and Russell Westbrook will comfortably win the award over James Harden.
After spending weeks poring over voters and ballots, I’ll tell you now that Draymond Green will win Defensive Player of the Year and Giannis Antetokounmpo will take the Most Improved Player of the Year.
There’s room for anticipation over Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year, but expect Malcolm Brogdon and Eric Gordon to win the awards. And in reality you should be more excited about and anticipate what Joel Embiid will Tweet before/during/after an awards show more than who will win the awards.
Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year are anyone’s guess at this point, but if throwing an awards show with those as your big reveals are like hyping up your backyard barbecue skills then peeling frozen burger patties and Oscar Mayer franks onto the grill.
The NBA Draft is before the NBA Awards Show
The timing is so bad LaVar Ball could hijack the 2017 NBA Awards Show. How? The 2017 NBA Draft is before the 2017 NBA Awards Show!
The NBA is opening the 2017-2018 NBA season before closing its previous season. Because of this, there’s the legit possibility media darling and Trump-style provocateur LaVar Ball, with a newly drafted son, could pick a fight with the new team’s owner, coach or players the morning of the awards show and attract more publicity and coverage than any award show acceptance speech.
The NBA is stepping on its own narratives by hosting the show after the draft. Instead of giving fans and teams a week to introduce their draft picks and argue over how the pieces fit together the league will ask fans to divert their attention to the winners of awards, which have been closed for over two months.
Additionally, by handing out the awards after the draft, the NBA is admitting the awards have no bearing on a franchise’s future. That’s entirely rational, but it flies in the face of the past narrative that an award winner (or loser) could impact the playoff success of a team.
Players or coaches changing teams could win awards: LeBron James & George Karl
April 15, 2010: End of the regular season
May 2, 2010: LeBron James is given the NBA MVP trophy
May 13, 2010: LeBron James is eliminated in the second round over six games by the Boston Celtics
June 17, 2010: Lakers beat Celtics in seven games for NBA title
Potential June 26, 2010: Date of a prospective 2010 NBA Awards Show
July 10, 2010: LeBron James hosts The Decision
If the NBA had hosted an awards show in 2010 it would have been closer to The Decision than James’ elimination from the playoffs.
A franchise with a player on the ropes, like Cleveland was, would have been given no time to profit or benefit from a player winning an award. In 2010 James accepted the award in Akron at a ceremony open to the public and called all of his teammates on stage to recognize their contributions and their championship aspirations.
Should James have been handed the award at a New York or California award show there would have been no Ohio-based celebration as the unrestricted free agent wasn’t communicating with his franchise. There would have been no reason for the Cavaliers or city to celebrate the achievement as James had them all begging for a contract extension.
This would have created an agonizing 12 days that start with handing LeBron the MVP trophy and end with Clevelanders burning his jersey.
Even worse than LeBron making a decision of his own volition is George Karl’s 2013 Coach of the Year award:
April 17, 2013: End of the regular season
May 2, 2013: George Karl eliminated in the first round over five games by the Golden State Warriors
May 7, 2013: George Karl wins Coach of the Year award
June 6, 2013: Denver Nuggets fire George Karl
Potential June 26, 2013: Date of a prospective 2010 NBA Awards Show
From all accounts, George Karl doesn’t respect many people not named George Karl. The Nuggets opted to fire Karl instead of succumbing to his demands for an extension when the Coach of the Year had a single year left on his contract.
In this instance the NBA would hand an award on stage to a coach who had been fired by his team amidst a public feud and playoff collapse.
Would they have allowed Karl to give an acceptance speech? Would they have forced him to pre-record it? How many F-bombs would Karl have dropped on stage?
The NBA deprived fans of classic narratives
Do you doubt for a second that Michael Jordan remembered before every game of the 1997 NBA Finals that Karl Malone had been given the MVP trophy that season?
Chicago took out Utah in six games in a Finals where the two teams combined for 133 wins, second best in league history. Malone put up MVP numbers, but his award may have come from voter fatigue and Jordan made sure to get in every sneer and exclamation point possible on the way to his fifth NBA title.
By not handing out the MVP trophy during the playoffs, the league might deny itself this jewel of a narrative. It's as old as the league itself. With duels ranging from Magic Johnson-Larry Bird to Allen Iverson-Shaquille O'Neal and most memorably for Houston Rockets fans Hakeem Olajuwon-David Robinson.
There's not a single NBA broadcast, recap or caption about the 1994-1995 playoffs that doesn't mention David Robinson being handed the MVP trophy at the start of the Spurs-Rockets playoff series and Hakeem Olajuwon playing with a historic vengeance and submitting a series for the ages.
To this day, the NBA packages the Hakeem defeated Robinson out of spite narrative, proving they recognize the value of having compelling storylines.
This season, instead of “this guy’s going to get revenge,” the public narrative was more along the lines of “Westbrook will probably win but who really knows and let’s talk more about triple-doubles.” James Harden defeated eventual winner Russell Westbrook while Harden was deposed by Kawhi Leonard. The best narratives the NBA had to sell were gone.
By the time the awards roll around, either the Golden State Warriors or LeBron James should be handed all of the trophies for everything. A player will be handed a trophy in the shadow of a historic NBA champion. It's almost impossible to construct a more blasé narrative.
The whole thing is terribly timed, without suspense and at best, a boring fashion show. It is utterly useless.