Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Jaylen Brown named Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP

Jaylen Brown is taking home another piece of hardware, as he was named the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP just moments after the Celtics cruised past the Dallas Mavericks 106-88 in Game 5 to capture the franchise's 18th title Monday night at TD Garden.

The All-Star wing becomes the first player to win back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals MVP and Finals MVP since the league's inaugural conference finals Most Valuable Player award for both the East and West back were introduced in 2022.

It was just a few weeks ago when Brown walked away with the Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP trophy after the Celtics sweep the Indiana Pacers 4-0 to win the East.
"I wasn't expecting that at all. I don't ever win shit," Brown said after Game 4 of the East Finals. "So, I was just happy that we won."
Brown finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the C's clincher over the Mavs in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. For the series, Brown averaged 20.8 points, 5.4 rebounds. 5.0 assists, and 1.6 steals per contest, while playing elite defense on Luka Dončić for much of all the five games.
"It was a full team effort and I share this with my brothers, and my partner in crime Jayson Tatum -- he was with me the whole way," Brown said of winning Finals MVP during his postgame interview on ABC. "We share this shit together."
Jayson Tatum, who was also in the running for Finals MVP, had his best performance of the series with a near triple-double of 31 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists in Game 5.
"I can't even put into words -- the emotions," Brown said. "It's just I'm blessed and I'm grateful. This was a full team effort. We had a great team. My teammates were great. They allowed me to lead us on both ends of ball, and we just came out and performed on our home floor. It's just amazing.  You know, it could have gone to anybody. 

"It could have gone to Jayson. Jayson, like I can't talk enough about his selflessness. You know, I can't talk enough about his attitude. It's just how he approached not just this series or the Finals but just the playoffs in general. And we did it together as a team, and that was the most important thing."
Brown noted that after playing seven years together, he and Tatum can finally say they were able to win an NBA championship as teammates in Boston -- despite all the naysayers and doubters that claimed they couldn't get it done.
"We've been through a lot," Brown said of both himself and Tatum. "We've been playing together for seven years now. We've been through a lot, the losses, the expectations. The media have said all different types of things: We can't play together, we are never going to win.

"We heard it all. But we just blocked it out, and we just kept going. I trusted him. He trusted me. And we did it together. To get to this point and share that experience with JT is just awesome, you know what I mean? It's amazing, and it feels great."
With Brown's work in the community and shinning a light on social justice, it's only fitting that the MVP trophy he was awarded is named after an icon like Bill Russell -- who has meant so much to him since being drafted by the Celtics back in 2016. 
"To be honest, I can't even put it into words," Brown said. "Just Bill Russell and what he's meant for me through my Boston journey, and his spirit. You know, everything that he stood for, just for this to be the Bill Russell MVP Award, it just -- I've got nothing, man. I don't even know what to say. It's unreal."
Another person Brown reflected on was his late grandmother Dianne Varnado -- who passed away in March of 2023, as he wore a shirt in honor of her this past Sunday in practice. The 27-year-old got emotional when speaking about a dream he had of her just hours prior to Game 5.
"I wish my grandmother was here with me to see this moment," Brown said with tears in his eyes. "But I woke up from my pregame nap, and I had a dream, and my grandma was in the dream, and she gave me a hug this afternoon. I just knew everything was going to be all right.

"But I wish she could be here. But she was so important and pivotal in my life. And it's just awesome. I know she would be proud of me. Grandma, I know she was watching, and I love you so much."
As for if the Celtics can go back-to-back as champions, Brown was asked if this roster -- who are expected to retain their core of Tatum, Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick White, Al Horford and of course Brown -- can repeat when they run it back for the 2024-25 season.
"I think we have an opportunity," Brown said. "I think we definitely have a window. We take it one day at a time. We definitely have to make sure we stay healthy. But, you know, we'll enjoy the summer, enjoy the moment, and then we get right back to it next year."
Boston currently are the favorites and have the best odds at +280 to repeat as champions in 2024-25, according to ESPN.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of USA Today

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