Westbrook’s honor capped the N.B.A. awards show, which included tributes to Monty Williams, Craig Sager and Bill Russell.
It was also a big night for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Rockets, who both claimed multiple awards.
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player Award, after his teammate Malcolm Brogdon was named the rookie of the year.
Houston’s Mike D’Antoni won the Coach of the Year Award, his second. He led the Rockets to 55 victories and a league record for 3-pointers this season.
D’Antoni, who also won the award while coaching the Phoenix Suns, joined Rockets guard Eric Gordon, who claimed the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Leonard, the Spurs star who was injured in the Western Conference finals against the Warriors, missed out on the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Golden State’s Draymond Green won, ending Leonard’s two-year reign.
Green was rewarded for his do-everything role with the N.B.A. champion Warriors. He led the league in steals and, on Feb. 10, had the league’s first triple-double that did not include points, finishing with 11 rebounds, 10 steals and 10 assists.
Leonard was trying to become the first player to win three in a row since Dwight Howard. Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was the other finalist.
Some levity came from Russell, who received the first Lifetime Achievement Award and responded with some trash talk — and then praise — for the big men who honored him.
The Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo were on stage to present the honor to Russell, who won 11 championships as a player with the Boston Celtics and went on to become the N.B.A.’s first black coach.
After Russell took the stage, he pointed to the group of five and said he would kick their behinds. After a long laugh from the crowd that was standing and cheering, Russell told the other centers “you have no idea how much respect I have for you guys.”
The N.B.A. finals’ M.V.P. Award is named for Russell, who was one of the most dominant defensive players in league history.
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