Paul George is currently in Rio de Janeiro, hoping to help the United States Men’s National Team bring home a gold medal in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. But before the Olympics even get underway, George picked up a major accolade on Thursday, when he was named the 2015-16 Comeback Player of the Year in the Players Voice Awards.
Exactly two years and three days since Paul George crashed into a basket stanchion and suffered an open tibia-fibula fracture which cost him 76 games during the 2014-15 season, the two-way star’s determined resurgence into the upper echelons of the league’s elite has caught the attention and earned the respect of his peers, who voted him the 2015-16 Best Comeback Player.
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.). While Comeback Player of the Year is a common award in other major professional sports, the NBA has not given it out since the 1985-86 season.
George’s peers were rightly impressed with his stellar play in the 2015-16 season, his first full year back on the court after breaking his right leg at the USA Basketball Showcase in August 2014. PG-13 played in all but one regular season game in 2015-16, averaging 23.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.9 assists per game (all career-best marks). He ranked 10th in the league in scoring and tied for eighth in assists.
George was even better on the biggest stage. He was voted by the fans as a starter for the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto, where he led all scorers with 41 points, one short of an All-Star Game record. In the playoffs, he was dominant in a seven-game series with the second-seeded Toronto Raptors, averaging 27.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.0 steals per contest.
The NBPA unveiled George as an award winner on Twitter, along with a one-minute video featuring commentary from several prominent NBA players (you can watch the video in the embedded tweet above).
“Playing alongside him this year, he just brought it every night,” said George’s Pacers teammate, Myles Turner. “To add up the number he did, take over the All-Star Game, lead us to that first round, he deserves it all.”
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Paul George, seeing what he went through,” Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard said.
George appears with the award in hand near the end of the video.
“I’m really grateful,” George said. “My peers have been very supportive throughout this whole process.”
He also got in a bit of a jab toward his childhood idol, Kobe Bryant, who also came back from a major injury to play in his 20th and final NBA season in 2015-16.
“It’s also an honor to finally beat out Kobe in something,” George joked.