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INDIANAPOLIS – The hardware laid out was beyond impressive.

-An award from the NBA for leading the league in steals last season.

-An All-NBA honor for making the 3rd Team in 2017-18.

-And, of course, the NBA’s Most Improved Award from his first season with the Pacers.

It was quite the haul Oladipo would be taking home, as he met the media in front of the entire Pacers staff and organization earlier this summer.

But when pressed with the difficult question of which award meant the most to him, the All-Star shooting guard went with option D.

How about ‘The Backbone Award’ from his teammates?

“I think that’s the best award I’ve ever gotten,” Oladipo said. “Because that’s them (pointing to his teammates). That’s what they see me as. I see them as my backbone because there’s so many times during the year where those guys pick me up, every single one of them lift me up.”

The NBA Players Association renamed the former ‘Teammate of the Year Award’ to the ‘Backbone Award.’ It’s given to a player on each team that represents the heart and soul of that respective team.

It’s pretty obvious to see how Oladipo would take home such an honor.

Not only was Oladipo the clear catalyst on the court for the Pacers last season, he also was the infectious personality needed off the court, too.

Oladipo makes it clear that things were reciprocated from his teammates as well.

“There’s so many times during the year where those guys pick me up, every single one of them lift me up and I do the same thing for them,” the award-winning guard says. “Whether it’s missing a ton of shots or not playing as good as you want to. The first thing one of my teammates said was just, ‘Keep shooting, you’re good, just keep shooting, stay aggressive.’ That goes a long way. It’s easy to be the backbone when you have pieces around you that tell you that.

 

“That was one of the greatest awards I had ever received. I’m definitely appreciative and humbled by that. These are great obviously, but that one stood out to me.”