Though last year was his first as a member of the Pacers, veteran center Al Jefferson quickly established himself as one of the more popular figures within the Indiana locker room.
The oldest player on the team last season (he turned 32 on Jan. 4), the 13-year veteran earned his teammates’ instant respect for his wealth of experience and knowledge. And despite his large stature, Jefferson’s easygoing demeanor helped him develop quick friendships with his new teammates. When conducting interviews after a win, you could often hear Jefferson across the room, cracking jokes in his deep, baritone voice.
Jefferson’s positive influence on the Pacers was formally recognized on Friday, when he was named the Pacers’ recipient of the 2017 Teammate of the Year award, part of The Players Voice Awards.
The Players Voice Awards were started in 2015 by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) as an alternative to traditional league awards, which are voted on by select members of the media. The Players Voice Awards are voted on exclusively by NBA players and feature both traditional categories (Most Valuable Player, Best Rookie, etc.) and more unique ones (Best Dressed, Best Social Media Follow, etc.).
The awards also include 30 Teammate of the Year awards, with players from each team voting for their favorite teammate. Additional winners included three former Pacers players: Gerald Green with the Celtics, David West with the Warriors, and Metta World Peace with the Lakers. Lawrence North High School alum Mike Conley won the award for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook took home the MVP award, just like he did in Media Voting, as well as Best Dressed and Hardest to Guard. Philadelphia rookie Joel Embiid won both Comeback Player of the Year after sitting out two seasons due to injury and Best Social Media Follow. LeBron James also won two awards: Player You Secretly Wish Was on Your Team and Global Impact Player.
Other award winners included Vince Carter (the oldest active NBA player) for Most Influential Veteran, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (Coach You’d Most Like to Play For), the Warriors (Best Home Court Advantage), Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (Best Defender), Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (Clutch Performer), veteran guard Lou Williams (Best off the Bench), and Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon (Best Rookie).