The NBA awards races are on the forefront of everyone’s minds, but one thing that’s slipped by the public conscience is the format in which those awards will be doled out. There will be presumably be another NBA awards show this year, a television broadcast occurring some time after the Finals that’s very proper, serious, and boring. Seriously, there’s so much room to run with an awards show–have players perform musical numbers (I know a certain number 0 in Portland that’d be game)! Force Gregg Popovich to present an award! And please, for the love of everything holy, make the awards themselves more fun. I’ve taken the liberty of doing so with my beloved Memphis Grizzlies. On the brink of their play-in berth, let’s take a look down memory lane and celebrate the peaks and valleys of one of the most interesting seasons in franchise history.
Fashion Watch Storyline of the Year: Dillon Brooks’ Sunglasses
This one was possibly the easiest selection for all these awards. Now in his fourth season, the Oregon Duck could’ve received a whole slate of prizes, but what ultimately lands Brooks this award is the perfect symbolism at play. It’s one hell of a fashion statement to wear sunglasses that directly obscure your eyes in a conversational setting. But, just as you should leave it to Brooks to get up a game’s most ballsy shots, you can just as easily rely on him to whip out a postgame conference’s most ambitious looks.
Most Exciting Player of the Year (Short-Term): Ja Morant (duh.)
I don’t think I need a lengthy explanation for this one–Morant’s one of the league’s most explosive players, and probably the only person I’ve ever seen boast a compilation of his *missed* dunks. Hell, he even tried to posterize Draymond Green, an all-time defender, in two consecutive games. With entertainment like that, who cares if they both missed? What matters is that 12’s confidence makes for absolute must-see TV.
Most Exciting Player of the Year (Long-Term): Desmond Bane
I am so, sooo stoked from what I’ve seen out of Desmond Bane this year. The kid’s exactly the type of player you’d want alongside Morant and company–not only is he a historic shooter (averaging one of the best three-point marks ever for a rookie), he’s shown flashes of being a capable defender and finisher (quietly shooting above league average at the rim his last 15 games). Bane’s going to be a starter in Beale Street Blue for years to come, and regardless of if he develops as an off-the-dribble playmaker, we can always delight in the fact that he shares his name with a Batman villain.
CoachSpeak Line of the Year: “Take things one day at a time”
If I was directing a video team, I’d get them to cut together just how many times this mantra was repeated over the course of the season. Have a big game coming up at the end of the week? One day at a time. Looking forward to an awards race to be announced soon? One day at a time. Any update on an injured player’s recovery? Don’t even ask–you know what the response will be.
Of course, I’m really just giving Jenkins a hard time with that spiel. I’ve written before about the ways that I thought the mentality helped the Grizzlies out–especially with so many young players on the roster, staying present was key to establishing the day-to-day success that propelled Memphis into the playoffs. Still, it’s a credit to his speaking abilities that he’s mastered the art of giving the public as much (or as little) information as he deems appropriate. Change the information, change the narrative.
Wait, he was on the Team? This Year? Award: Gorgui Dieng
I don’t know about you, but this season has seemed especially long to me, so much so that I thought Gorgui Dieng was cut from the team in December, even though he was playing for the team at the end of February and was on the roster until the conclusion of March. Yeesh. Dieng was a considerable amount of fun on the Grizzlies, at one point leading the league in three point shooting. He also racked up the distinct honor of playing in the squad’s weirdest starting lineup, composed of Morant, Brooks, Anderson, Xavier Tillman, and himself. Still, Dieng feels like an incredibly distant memory, even taking all his quirks into consideration. Given that Memphis didn’t make a slew of humongous moves this season, he’s a shoe-in for the award.
Best Road In-Game Entertainment Award: the Dallas Mavericks’ Titanic Cam
This is the only award that’ll be handed out to an opponent, but for good reason. I found out about the existence of a Titanic Cam during the Mavericks’ throwback night victory against the Grizzlies. If you’re confused about the procedure of a fad named after a ship, here’s the skinny: the Titanic Cam consists of paired members of the audience assuming Jack and Rose’s infamous pose from atop the Titanic, from the aptly-titled smash hit movie. I couldn’t find a direct video of the Mavs’ execution, but at one point it looks like the Orlando Magic’s announcers got into the fun, providing a more than adequate demonstration.
Personally, I’m all for experimentation with different types of in-arena challenges. The Kiss Cam is at best outdated, and at worst disgusting–seriously, who goes to an NBA game wanting to see fans embarrass themselves attempting to slobber over each other, especially in the middle of a pandemic? As such, bring me your Titanic Cams, and your sweater ladies–anything getting creative nets major points for me.
Jersey of the Year: City Soul Edition
I mean, was it even a competition? Everything about these jerseys is an absolute hit, so much so that I think Grizzlies fans might’ve broken the supply chain. There’s a surprising amount of colors going on, from the aquamarine stripes running down the side of the jersey to the red and orange smatterings of the Nike and FedEx logo. And yet, the slightly faded gold of the jersey’s main text ties it all together, making for a fit that’s just as smooth as the genre it claims to represent.
Even better, the jerseys inspired what is hands-down the best hype package for any team around the association. I cannot get over the usage of Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” here. Everything just comes together perfectly, including the video team actually finding a clip of Ja Morant yelling one of the seven dirty words in order to sync up with the legendary vocalist. Don’t believe me? Try and read 12’s lips here:
Advanced Stat Jump of the Year: Kyle Anderson’s Net Rating
Welcome to the nerdiest corner of an already nerdy piece. For those that don’t know, Offensive Rating is simply the amount of points a team scores with a player on the court per 100 possessions. As such, Offensive Rating is pretty handy to evaluate a player’s efficacy–just subtract a player’s Defensive Rating (how much their opponent scores per 100 possessions), and you have a neat way of assessing impact. Calculated as such, Kyle Anderson had a net rating of +0.0 last season.
This year, that number skyrocketed to +9, a wonderful encapsulation of all the improvements he’s made. Slow Mo’s now an adequate shooter, his defense is top notch, and pretty much every one of his counting stats has taken a leap. Anderson started each one of his 68 games played, and for good reason. This award may not go too far in ways of celebration, but the New Jersey native is making 9.5 million dollars this year–I’m sure he won’t mind.
Best Grizzlies Shenanigans: Cheesesteakgate
Let me set the scene. Philadelphia, early April. Spring has sprung, locals stroll past the Liberty Bell, and the Grizzlies have just secured a season sweep over the 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. Though the win was a remarkable team effort, Brooks especially was a standout player, scoring 17 points on nine shots in the midst of one of his most tenacious defensive performances of the season. Thus, it was more than understandable that Brooks wanted a cheesesteak to celebrate his stellar game, as he noted to Rob Fischer in the postgame interview. Before he could chow down on his philly special though, hijinks ensued:
A cheesesteak bandit was amidst the ranks of the Grizzlies locker room. As such, the team’s reporters (myself included), flocked to get the story. It’s a bit on the longer end, but you have to watch Brooks’ entire press conference, if only to see multiple professional reporters eschew their questions in favor of figuring out the Oregon Duck’s preference for cheez-wiz.
One on One with the Undertaker Award: Jonas Valanciunas
Teddy Long swoops in to inspire the title for our next award, designed to honor the Grizzlies’ toughest player (or playa, as he might say). While Brooks, Anderson, and even Morant all have a decent stake to claim, this award can’t go to anyone other than the man in the middle himself. JV is perhaps the best bruiser in the modern-day NBA, with a vast assortment of elbows, bumps, and even shoves to move his opponent by any means necessary.
That said, Jonas wasn’t afraid to go full WWE on his opponent, either. Tell me you can’t picture Jim Ross calling out a chokeslam after Chimenzie Metu got a little too flashy for the Lithuanian’s liking:
Those are just a few potential awards that I think are worth mentioning. Have any plays, moments, or trends you’d like to see recognized? Hit me up on Twitter @not_adamteich and I’ll update the list with your contributions. Happy playoffs, everybody!
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