Smart Becomes NBA’s First Two-Time Hustle Award Winner

Marcus Smart added to his rapidly growing hardware collection Monday afternoon, as he was named the recipient of the 2021-22 NBA Hustle Award.

It marks the third significant honor that Smart has received this season, after also being named Defensive Player of the Year and being selected for the All-Defensive First Team. He’s the first player to win this specific award multiple times, previously earning it in 2018-19.

The Hustle Award award goes hand-in-hand with Smart’s defensive accolades, given that his relentless grit is what makes him such a unique and effective defender.

Smart had his name all over the hustle stat leaderboards this past regular season. He was fourth in loose balls recovered (75), 10th in charges drawn (12), and already has a league-leading eight charges drawn in 12 playoff games. During the regular season, he also ranked 10th in deflections (206) and was No. 1 among all guards in boxouts (104).

Hustle is the ultimate measure of heart, and to understand how much heart Smart gives to the game, look no further than the third quarter of Game 3 against the Miami Heat Saturday night. He suffered a bad ankle sprain only to return a few minutes later to knock down a 3-pointer and then draw a charge on the other end. He puts his body on the line every game, unafraid of the consequential nicks and bruises he may suffer and willing to play through just about any type of pain for his team.

Smart’s tenacity has a contagious effect on the rest of his teammates, which helped Boston establish itself as the top defense in the NBA this season.

"A lot of my defensive grit and my will to fight out there I get from just watching him,” said Rob Williams, who joined Smart on the All-Defensive squad as a Second Team selection. “Even in practice, him being vocal. On the court, he’s a great defensive anchor for us, but he’s a better leader … He’s always talking, putting guys where they need to be.”

Knowing where he needs to be on the court at all times is what has helped Smart succeed in so many hustle categories. He has an incredibly high defensive IQ, and coupling that with his fearless drive has turned him into a hustle machine.

To see him finally get recognized for all of his hard work has been gratifying for both Smart and his teammates.

“He’s been guarding his butt off since he’s been in this league and now he’s got the acknowledgment,” Grant Williams said in April after Smart became the first guard to win DPOY since Gary Payton in 1995-96. “It’s great to celebrate your teammate for all the hard work, all the effort you’ve watched him put in from day one. I’ve learned so much from Marcus, how to compete in everything on that side of the ball, how he changes the game.”

Much like Stephen Curry is a game-changer as a shooter, or Chris Paul as a playmaker, Smart changes the game with his defense and hustle. There’s no one else quite like him in the NBA from that standpoint, and he now has several pieces of hardware to prove it.


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