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Marcus Smart is a different kind of player, so it's no surprise he's earning a different kind of hardware for it.

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), the union which represents the players of the NBA, decided under new Executive Director Michelle Roberts that the players needed their own awards to counterpoint the league's, which will be broadcast this July on the BET and Centric networks.

Among the categories created for this ceremony include:
  • X-factor, awarded for being a spark off the bench;
  • Sneaker Champ, awarded for, well, having the freshest kicks;
  • Best Side Hustler, granted to the best off-court businessman;
  • Most Respected - I hope this is self-explanatory;
  • People's Champ, awarded for the player who's had the most impact on society off-court;
  • MVP, awarded to the player's Most Valuable Player;
  • The Locksmith, granted to the most lockdown defender;
  • Leader of the New School, given to a rookie who rose to the occasion, a star in the making;
  • Toughest to Guard, given to JR Smith - that is a lie, I trust you have this one;
  • Freshest, awarded for having the most stylish style ever styled;
  • Mr. Clutch, given to the most clutch of NBA players, and
  • Backbone, awarded for being the heart and soul of the team.

The last of these categories is a team-by-team award, with every squad in the Association having a nominee. So, not that big of an honor, I suppose, but certainly true, at least for last season, that Marcus was the "heart and soul" of the Boston Celtics. I doubt he will next season based on what I saw from Jayson Tatum, but this award is not for future seasons.

You might think Boston's roster ought to have some other representatives - Smart alone looks like a plausible candidate for "Locksmith" and maybe even "X-Factor", but those awards were won by Rudy Gobert and Lou Williams, respectively - hard to argue against that. While "Most respected" could easily have been garnered by Al Horford, the selection of Vince Carter is unassailable, and Damian Lillard is probably just as fair to have as a winner as Kyrie Irving would have been, though the former got the nod in reality.

Russell Westbrook probably deserves the "Side Hustle" hardware, even if Scary Terry created a clothing line of his own out of a verbal stumble in the playoffs, and "Toughest to Guard" is fairly awarded to James Harden, though I suspect Jayson Tatum will end up with this one soon enough.

All 30 team's "Backbone" award winners
We all know damn near half the team might have a crack at "Freshest" with the gear they are regularly seen in on their way to and from games (no high-water suits these guys), but this season it'll go to Westbrook. While there's probably no better candidate out there for "Leader of the New School" than Jaylen Brown, Donovan Mitchell is his buddy, so I think he'll be alright with that outcome.

No need to get too upset here for snubs, seeing as these are for and by the players themselves - as well as the fact that these awards (and probably many others) will be sitting on the shelves of the current roster soon enough.

For more stories by Justin, click here.


Image: Bob Lian/NBPA
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 6/05/2018 10:56:00 AM Edit
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