The Oklahoma City Thunder's James Harden was announced Thursday as the 2012 KIA Sixth Man of the Year, The Associated Press reports. Harden received 115 of 119 first-place votes.
According to SB Nation, Harden led the league in bench scoring with 16.8 points per game.
During his acceptance speech, the OKC guard gave Thunder coach Scott Brooks credit for giving him the tools to win the award.
"Scotty did a great job of making me become that 6th man off the bench. Helping me figure my role out. At first, as a rookie, I didn't get it. I just thought I was going to go in there and score and do all the things that every other player thought. But learning, three years it took me to embrace that role," Harden said.
According to Sekou Smith, , Thunder coach, Scott Brooks felt Harden was being too hard on himself. "He did get it as a rookie. He averaged 10 points a game as a rookie on a team that won 50 games." Brooks said that Harden has only gotten better. He recalled the two sitting down for lunch last year. Harden told him "Coach, I just want to do whatever the team needs to help us get better."
Brooks also revealed his thoughts on Harden's beard. "He has a great game and he has a cool look," Brooks said. I didn't like it at first, but it's growing on me. I would never want him to shave it."
Thunder general manager Sam Presti praised Harden's character, sacrifice, and maturity, Sekou Smith reports. Presti made it a point to note that the award is as much about contributions in the scoring sense as it is about contributing to the team through determination and tireless work ethic.
Harden took to Twitter earlier to thank his fans for the honor. "Thanks to everyone. I appreciate all the love. Sixth Man of the Year," he tweeted.
Harden, 22, is the second-youngest NBA player to win the award, AP reports.
Ben Gordon is the youngest, winning the award as part of the Chicago Bulls in 2005 at age 21.