Last weekend, the NBPA players union held their first-ever awards show, dubbed the NBPA Players Awards, in an effort to re-take the pomp and circumstance of regular-season plaudits from the media. The event featured appearances from various hip hop artists and legendary players, and presented a handful of awards. Here are the headlines. 


The big headliner news from this shindig is that James Harden won MVP over Stephen Curry, the media's MVP who went on to win the NBA title. Here's what I said about this award back during the season when the players awards were announced. 

Pretty obvious to do this one. Will be interesting to see if there's a difference between the two this season. If I had to guess, I would bet that Steph Curry wins the MVP from the media, and James Harden, based on his ability to carry the team through so many injuries, wins MVP from the players. Both are well-liked among their peers, and I would bet that Curry is regarded as a "scarier" opponent, but the players have so much respect for what you accomplish in the league vs. how you perform which is factored more into media analysis.

Source: NBPA announces categories for 'Basketball Players Awards' -

Yup, sounds about right. Talking to players throughout the season, they felt that Harden's work with Dwight Howard being injured was more impressive, something media voters factored in, but the media also tends to reward winning and performance above all else. Curry did take home two awards, for most clutch player and "hardest to guard." 

For an overview of that epic MVP race, click here


The NBPA likely thought it had a great model for encouraging participation in the event. Players hang out in Las Vegas in droves, and the event was nestled in between Summer League when many players come out to support their teammates (and party) and the start of Team USA mini-camp and the NBPA's annual meeting in Vegas. That should have created a pretty high attendance rate, especially with so many players complaining about the media having a role at all in the major awards

Nope. In a stellar write-up at Sports Illustrated, Ben Golliver breaks down the absence of notable stars in an event made by, and for, the stars themselves. 

The comedy, music and commentary were all periphery elements, of course. The show, as Paul explained, “is about us players,” and that’s where the bigger problems surfaced. The NBPA’s ability to engage and organize its membership has been a long-standing problem, and it continued here despite Paul’s best efforts. Of the 20 players and coaches listed on the front page of an informational packet, only five showed up to the event and only three of those five bothered to walk the red carpet.
Outside of Paul (who was recognized with the Oscar Robertson Visionary Award for his union work), Stephen Curry (who arrived nearly two hours after taping started) and James Harden (who made the briefest of cameos), there wasn’t much current star power in the building. Finals MVP Andre Iguodala and Paul Pierce highlighted the list of active players in attendance; recognizable superstars like Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose were all nowhere to be found.

Source: NBA Players' Awards: Chris Paul, Allen Iverson star at first annual event - NBA - 

That's not a great sign for the future of the event. LeBron James was also absent, despite having been in Vegas for Summer League and being the NBPA's Vice President. If the union is serious about trying to use these types of things to unite membership in advance of what many feel is an unavoidable lockout in 2017, it got off to a slow start. It's the first year, players are busy, the DeAndre Jordan saga was just getting wrapped up, leading to Jordan being in LA for a press conference instead of accepting his Defensive Player award, etc. But it's still not a good sign that so many players bailed on the event, or that Curry and Harden kind of just dropped by like it was any other low-level award they were accepting. 


Allen Iverson received the biggest ovation of the night, according to most accounts, as he was presented with the Game Changer Award for his contributions to the game and basketball culture. Iverson, who has fallen on rough times in recent years, seemed genuinely moved by the gesture. 


The union will want to try and secure better attendance next year, and they need to decide if they want the show to feel like a sports show, the ESPY's, a fashion and entertainment showor a union publicity stunt. There's room for all of that, but tightening the message would be a step in the right direction. If the union wants these awards to feel like the superior awards to the media ones, and they do, they need to sell that not only to themselves, but to fans. That's hard to do when it doesn't feel like the players themselves have bought in yet. 

James Harden won the NBPA's MVP vote.     (USATSI)
James Harden won the NBPA's MVP vote. (USATSI)