Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart was named Monday as the 2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, the first backcourt player to take the award since Gary Payton in 1996.
Smart became the second Boston player to capture the award after Kevin Garnett in 2008.
“I’m proud to have this award and have my name mentioned with these guys,” Smart said.
Smart received 257 total points, including 37 first-place votes, from a global media panel with Phoenix forward Mikal Bridges second on 202 with 22 first-place nods.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, a Frenchman who won the award three of the past four seasons, was third with 136 points, including 12 first-place votes.
Retired Seattle star Payton was at a ceremony in the Celtics training facility to tell Smart he had won the award.
“That was awesome,” Smart said. “He was really the idol for guards to have a chance. He set the bar high.”
Smart, an eight-year NBA veteran, said it takes a special attitude to capture the NBA’s top defensive player award.
“Definitely a mentality, a swagger. You’ve got to have a chip on your shoulder,” he said. “You’ve got to believe in yourself like nobody else and guard everybody tough.”
Smart played 71 games for Boston this season and ranked sixth in the NBA with 119 total steals, seventh in steals per game on 1.68.
Smart, 28, shared fourth in the NBA with 75 loose balls recovered and shared 10th with 206 deflections and 16 charging fouls drawn. He also pulled down a career-best 3.2 defensive rebounds a game.
The Celtics led the NBA with the fewest points allowed per game with 104.5 and kept rivals to the NBA’s lowest shooting percentage at 43.4 and worst three-point shooting percentage at 33.9.
That defensive hustle helped Boston finish as the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs at 51-31.
Smart also averaged 12.1 points, a career-high 5.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds a game.