At the NBA Awards on Monday 25 June, Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo was named the Kia Most Improved Player. Oladipo was officially nominated for the award a month ago, but the expectation that he’d become the fifth player for the Indiana Pacers to win the award in the last 20 years came from before the New Year. From emerging as the most valuable player at the 2017 NBA Africa Game, he’s now been named the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year for the 2017-18 season.
Born to Nigerian and Sierra Leonean parents, Victor Oladipo beat out Houston Rockets center Clint Capela and Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie for the award, making him the fifth player in the history of the Indiana Pacers to win the award.
In his fifth season, Oladipo averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and an NBA-best 2.4 steal en route to his first All-Star selection. The Most Improved Player Award is typically a statistical one, giving Oladipo an obvious leg up, but he also led the Pacers to the playoffs, earning All-NBA Third Team honours.
The 26-year-old joined the Indiana Pacers almost a year ago after he was traded for a much more experienced player, Paul George. Oladipo proved himself in the team after he equalled George’s record of at least 20 points and two steals per game.
“First and foremost I want to thank my God in Heaven for giving me the ability to play this game, I want to thank all my family and friends here and at home. I love you all..,” Oladipo said while giving his speech.
“Shoutout to the Pacers organization for believing in me, all the Indiana Pacers. It’s only the beginning for us, we just getting started. I encourage you guys here and everybody at home to continue to lend a helping hand, to continue to change lives … One love. Stay feathery, too,” he concluded.