NEW YORK (AFP) – Utah center Rudy Gobert was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, the third time the Jazz’s French big man has earned the award.
Gobert, who also won the award in the 2017-18 season and in 2018-19, is the fourth player to win the award at least three times, joining Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace – who both won it four times – and Dwight Howard who won it three times.
The 7-foot-1-inch (2.16m) player dubbed the “Stifle Tower” received 84 first-place votes and earned 464 points from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.
In his eighth NBA season, Gobert led the league in defensive rebounds per game with 10.1, total defensive rebounds with 720 and total blocked shots with 190.
He ranked second in blocked shots per game (2.70) and posted six games with at least 15 defensive rebounds and eight games with five or more blocks.
“It takes team effort, mental toughness, hard work and dedication,” Gobert told broadcaster TNT as the award was announced prior to the night’s playoff game between the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns.
TNT broadcast video of Gobert being surprised with the trophy at his locker by cheering teammates.
“It’s been a great year,” he said, “but we have a higher goal and that’s to win a championship.”
Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons of Australia finished in second place with 287 points (15 first-place votes).
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, the 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year, finished in third place with 76 points.
Players received five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.
The Jazz lead the Los Angeles Clippers 1-0 in their best-of-seven Western Conference second-round playoff series after a 112-109 victory on Tuesday.
Gobert made a key — and characteristic — contribution to that victory with a big block of a three-point attempt by Marcus Morris as time ran out.