Much has been said about the concept of the NBA Awards. Who needs awards show honoring regular season achievers after the NBA Championship — the one trophy that truly matters to fans and honorees alike — has been won?
Yes, an award boosts a player's stock as top dog in the league. It's validation of one's hard work, perseverance, passion, training. For a franchise, it's a shiny pat on the back for getting the job done. It means more money, too, in salaries to be earned in free agency and tickets and merchandise to be sold throughout the season and beyond.
But if you've failed to win the Larry O'B in June, winning individual accolades can also just be bittersweet.
True enough, only one of the event's awardees — Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors — reached the championship round and won it all. The eventual Most Valuable Player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Coach of the Year, Mike Budenholzer, from the Milwaukee Bucks squandered a 2-0 lead to unceremoniously exit from the Eastern Conference Finals.
On the other hand, doling out the awards right after the start of the offseason fills in the gaps that open up between the NBA draft and the Summer League. This leaves fans and TV personalities like Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups with something to talk about during the dog days of the basketball calendar.
Another thing that awards ceremonies offer is entertainment, which was personified by this year’s host, NBA legend and Inside the NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal. The Big Diesel is no stranger to being the star of the night, as evidenced by his countless attention-grabbing antics on many an All-Star Weekend past.
A two-hour show, as far as the thinking goes, fits the brand of the new, social media-savvy NBA. And so far, the presentation has tried its darndest not to disappoint.
Here’s our candid running commentary of the 2019 NBA Awards.
Shaq makes a splashy entrance with a rap-and-dance number, complete with autotune and white trainers. The camera then pans to a seemingly disappointed Jerry West, who hasn’t looked this embarrassed since managing the infamous Shaq-Kobe Bryant beef.
As expected, the host’s monologue is one big joke about pal Charles Barkley, sprinkled with a few jabs at Kobe and Dwight Howard that guys like Luka Doncic and Trae Young either don't know, remember, or care about at all. Ah, if only Chris Tucker got a little more airtime...
Luka finally gets the award that he virtually won six months ago. Attending with him are his gorgeous mom and equally hot girlfriend — the Slovenian phenom sure looks like a winner three times over.
Meanwhile, Rookie of the Year runner-up Trae Young, in a blue suit that looks as fresh as Luka's, is seen extending a sportsmanlike handshake.
Mama Siakam looks more dressed for the occasion than her Most Improved Player son, who is reppin’ Raptors colors. Spicy P goes on to give the Raps, African basketball, and every member of the Siakam household a shout-out.
Then it cuts to Shaq, who somehow finds a way to endorse his newest business venture, the controversial Papa John’s — dishing jokes at the expense of Chuck once again.
It must’ve been awkward for Jaren Jackson to present his erstwhile captain Mike Conley the Twyman Stokes Teammate of the Year award just days after the latter was shipped to the Utah Jazz.
But if you want to talk about something awkward, talk about Jackson’s co-presenter, Baron Davis, and the bewildering way he channels Russell Westbrook with his sartorial eccentricity.
Shaq manages to introduce Paul George’s MVP-caliber season highlight reel without being salty about Steve Nash.
After joining Jamal Crawford as the only players to win the Sixth Man of the Year award three times, Lou Williams says, “You can never have too many of these, right?” The only thing cooler than him recognizing teammate Montrezl Harrell is his moss-colored ensemble.
Chuck gets back at Shaq with the help of Kenny Smith and comedian Jay Pharoah. The only thing missing from Pharoah’s mumbling Shaq impression is the latter’s dated “rings” argument.
Then, the hilarious bit segues into the night's unlikeliest segment: Derrick Rose’s emotional 50-point game winning House of Highlights Moment of the Year.
That “2 Chainz needs 2 Change” joke is underrated.
Apparently, you have to coach your lungs out be considered for Coach of the Year. Just ask Doc Rivers, Mike Malone, and eventual winner Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks, whose still-strained voice crackled during his acceptance speech.
As this happens, the camera suddenly zooms in on Rick Carlisle, whose team hasn’t won 40 games since 2016.
Damian Lillard has appeared on the big screen for the nth time, this time as part of the playoff mixtape. It’s also nice to see replays of Kawhi Leonard’s poster dunks and championship laugh. What's off-putting is, they squeezed in clips of the devastating injuries that befell Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
Comedian Hasan Minhaj kills it for someone who balled awkwardly and got blocked by a WNBA player at the Celebrity All-Star game. His joke about James Harden not showing up and the ensuing groans from the crowd sum up the entire show.
Somebody implored the NBA to give Rudy Gobert his second Defensive Player of the Year award, lest you want him to see him cry about it the way he did when he'd learned about his All-Star snub.
Gobert wins anew and holds back tears... then proceeds to blind everyone with his blue reflective suit.
Back from the break, Shaq has his 6’5” son on his lap while he does his spiel. Shaqir must have been fed up with the humiliation he's been subjected to and smacks his old man's face after he says, “Give me a kiss.”
If Samuel L. Jackson presenting the Lifetime Achievement award to the greatest rivalry in sports history isn’t the most ’80s portrait you've ever seen, we don’t know what is.
After a little reminiscing and teammate shout-outs, Bird fittingly shuts down all talks of “My generation is better than yours.” Meanwhile, Magic surprisingly doesn’t throw more people from the Lakers organization under the bus in his speech.
Seeing Giannis Antetokounmpo, an unstoppable basketball demigod break down and go speechless after receiving the Most Valuable Player award is proof that these superstars are still human and actually holding the trophy does really make a grown man sob.
Show ends. A satisfying watch, overall, save for Shaq's poor reading-from-a-teleprompter skills and old, repurposed routines.