Basketball: Rockets' Harden finally takes home MVP title at NBA awards, Sixers' Simmons is top rookie

Houston Rockets guard James Harden poses for photos with his MVP award during the NBA Awards show in Santa Monica, California, on June 25, 2018. PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS/GARY A. VASQUEZ

(REUTERS) - Houston Rockets point guard James Harden claimed the first Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award of his career at Monday (June 25) night's NBA Awards show in Santa Monica, California.

He beat four-time MVP LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis for the honour, in which he had finished runner-up last season to Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook and in 2015 to the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry.

Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons was named Rookie of the Year after the former No. 1 overall pick helped the team break its five-year play-off drought.

And Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is the Most Improved Player after a stellar first season in Indiana that ended in a play-off showdown with James' Cavaliers.

Harden is the third player in Rockets history to be named MVP, joining Moses Malone, who won it twice (1979 and 1982), and Hakeem Olajuwon (1994).

Harden was accompanied by his mother, Monja Willis, in accepting the award from NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

"I'm not getting emotional, I'm not doing all that, but she's my backbone,"Harden said. "Good times, bad times. ... We only get one life and I'm happy she's my mom. I wouldn't have it any other way, for real."

The 28-year-old led the league in scoring last season when he averaged 30.4 points per game. He added 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game in leading the Rockets to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference play-offs, where they fell to the eventual champion Warriors in Game 7 of the conference finals.

"Sixth Man of the Year to MVP," said Harden, who claimed the former honour in 2012 as a member of the Thunder.

"Shout out to all the youngins' man that got a dream and the vision out there to go take it. Go chase that dream. I'll see you all next year."

Simmons beat Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.

"I'd like to thank my family, to start off with," Simmons said. "My family, friends, you know I wouldn't be here without them, and my team-mates of course and my great coach (Brett Brown), and the city of Philadelphia for really embracing me."

Oladipo beat fellow finalists Clint Capela of the Rockets and Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets.

"Shout out to the Pacers organisation for believing in me," said Oladipo, who was dealt to Indiana last off-season in the deal that sent Paul George to the Thunder. "It's only the beginning for us."

Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award, beating out Anthony Davis of the Pelicans and Joel Embiid of the 76ers.

Gobert, who turns 26 on Tuesday, missed 26 games during the regular season with multiple injuries, but still anchored a Jazz defence that posted the second-best defensive rating (101.6) in the NBA last season.

Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams is now a two-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award winner after being named the league's best bench player for the 2017-18 campaign.

"I want to thank the Clippers organisation for giving me an opportunity to be myself," he said.

He beat finalists Eric Gordon of the Rockets, who won the award last year, and Fred VanVleet of the Raptors.

Dwane Casey earned Coach of the Year honours after guiding the Raptors to a first-place finish in the Eastern Conference, beating Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Jazz coach Quin Snyder.

However, he was fired after the Raptors' second consecutive second-round loss to the Cavaliers. Casey was hired as the new coach of the Detroit Pistons, replacing Stan Van Gundy.

Oscar Robertson, who averaged a triple-double in the 1961-62 season, was presented with the NBA's 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award.

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