This is only the third time that the awards have been put on, honoring players in categories such as NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.
Two-lifetime achievement awards were set to be handed out during the ceremony, aired on TNT, for former basketball players Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Former player John Salley said of the pair, “They saved the NBA in the 80s when Magic and Larry came into the NBA, they came in and they started that rivalry back up with Boston and I think they did a lot for the NBA.”
Shaquille O’Neal, who was acting as the host over the proceedings, told Reuters, “They are legends and they are one of the reasons I wanted to be a great player and it’s going to be an honor just to present them with that award and just an honor to have them here.”
With more and more international players, basketball appears to be breaking the confines of the United States. On June 13, the Toronto Raptors became the first non-US team to win the championship.
Pascal Siakam, who is from Cameroon and plays for the Raptors, told Reuters, “Ah man, it’s amazing. We have an African league coming up. There’s a lot of things going on. The NBA is coming to London and different countries every year so I think the growth has been amazing to see and being from Africa, for me, I think it’s an amazing thing to see the league going in a different direction and it’s just getting bigger and bigger.”
Retired player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played professionally for 20 years until 1989, said, “I’m totally surprised that basketball would be challenging soccer worldwide for great athletes. That’s amazing to me but the game has its charm and it’s telegenic and there’s a lot of scoring and people that like that, they have a choice.”
However, with a recent trend started by LeBron James to group together transfers in the league between teams, the future might not be so bright, according to NBA analyst, Charles Barkley.
He said “The biggest problem with the NBA is the stars playing together. We’re going to ruin the small markets. It’s going to come back to bite them in the long wrong run. We’ve been getting away with it a little bit but it’s going to be very interesting what happens this summer.”
Although the evening was honoring both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, neither of the pair walked the red carpet prior to the awards show.
(Production: Rollo Ross)