Giannis and Siakam win big at NBA Awards
African players Giannis Antetokounmpo and Pascal Siakam made the continent proud as they won big at the NBA awards in Los Angeles.
Cameroonian forward Siakam won the Most Improved Player award with Nigerian-Greek forward Antetokounmpo winning the biggest award of them all the Most Valuable Player of the year award.
With this win Antetokounmpo becomes the first player in NBA history to win the Most Improved Player award and the MVP. Giannis won MIP in 2017 and his growth in the NBA has been meteoric.
This past season the Greek Freak led the Milwaukee Bucks to 60 wins as well as the number one overall seed in the league. Personally, Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. He was sensational all season long and is a worthy winner of the MVP award, beating out the likes of 2018 MVP James Harden (Houston Rockets) and Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder).
Giannis was humble in his accepting his award and put a lot of the credit for it back on his teammates and coaching staff, “MVP is not about stats and numbers, and obviously James Harden had unbelievable numbers and Paul George, also, but obviously it's about winning. It's all about making sure you go out there with your teammates and do whatever it takes to win. I think that's what we did as a team. We created great habits throughout the season, and were able to stick by them, and that's why we were able to have a chance in every single game we played and were able to win 60 games.”
Siakam has had a long journey to get to where he is now. Growing up in Douala in Cameroon he was part of the 2012 Basketball Without Borders camp in Johannesburg, South Africa. Now he is an NBA Champions and winner of the MIP award. Siakam was also astounding this season and put in many career highs as he grew from strength to strength. The Cameroonian, affectionately nicknamed Spicy P, had been a bench player and then moved to become a key starter for the Toronto Raptors in the 2018-19 season. He averaged 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists this term. That is a vast improvement from the 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists he averaged the previous season, hence his winning of the accolade.
Winning the award meant a lot to Siakam who knows that it has meaning for the youth on the African continent and especially back home in Cameroon, “I think it means everything, just being from where I'm from, and I know a lot of kids can just look at this and can have some type of inspiration and believe that it's possible. I'm just happy that I'm a part of such an amazing event today and being able to win this, not only for me, my family, but kind of giving hope to all the African kids out there.”
This was a strong showing for the men who trace their roots back to the African continent. Both Giannis and Pascal had lost their fathers in the last few years and dedicated their award wins to the men who had helped shape and mold them. Giannis Antetokounmpo grew up in Greece but has also stated that his mum made sure they felt like they were living in Nigeria at home. He was raised with African values, as was Siakam who lived with his parents back in Cameroon. This is another example of how global the NBA has become as all of the winners of the big awards hail from international waters.
Here is the full list of award winners at the 2019 NBA Awards:
Kia NBA Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Kia NBA Rookie of the Year: Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks
Kia NBA Most Improved Player: Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Kia NBA Sixth Man Award: Lou Williams, LA Clippers
NBA Coach of the Year: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks
NBA EXECUTIVE-VOTED AWARD
NBA Basketball Executive of the Year: Jon Horst, Milwaukee Bucks
Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year: Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
NBA Sportsmanship Award: Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
COMMUNITY AWARD (PRESENTED BY KAISER PERMANENTE)*
Season-long NBA Cares Community Assist Award: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
*The winner was chosen by fans and an NBA executive panel.
House of Highlights Moment of the Year: Minnesota Timberwolves guard Derrick Rose scores a career-high 50 points against the Utah Jazz on Oct. 31, 2018.
SPECIAL NBA AWARDS HONORS
Lifetime Achievement Award: Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
Sager Strong Award: Robin Roberts
Hustle Award: Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics