James Harden is the NBA’s 2011-12 Sixth Man of the Year. The official announcement from the NBA came Thursday afternoon at a press conference in Oklahoma City. In addition to the entire coaching staff, teammates attending the announcement included Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Nick Collison, Lazar Hayward, Derek Fisher, Eric Maynor, Royal Ivey, Cole Aldrich and Reggie Jackson.
Harden acknowledged the award Thursday afternoon on Twitter in advance of any official announcement from the NBA: "Thanks to everyone!! I appreciate all the Love! 6th Man of the Year."
Harden has been widely projected for months to be the runaway winner of this year’s award. His selection by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada now validates his standing as the league’s best player in a reserve role.
Harden led all bench players with a career-high 16.8-point average, along with 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.0 steals in 31.4 minutes per game. He helped lead the Thunder to a 47-19 record, good for second place in the Western Conference standings, and the team’s second consecutive Northwest Division title. In a win at Phoenix on April 18, Harden registered a career-high 40 points in 36 minutes.
Harden succeeds former Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom as the winner of the Sixth Man of the Year award. Harden finished a distant seventh in voting last year, garnering just three second-place votes and 10 third-place votes.
Harden is the 26th player to receive the Sixth Man Award since its inception in 1982-83. He is the first player in Thunder/Sonics history to win the award.