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Tyson Chandler, Defensive Player of the Year

Tyson Chandler #6 of the New York Knicks celebrates a basket against the New Jersey Nets during their pre season game  at Madison Square Garden on December 21, 2011 in New York City. Growl! (We always imagine Tyson growling. But in a friendly way.)

It's difficult to overstate just how fantastic and vital Tyson Chandler has been for the Knicks this season. He's near record levels of field goal percentage, he is the team's emotional leader, and he's the one guy who, when injured, makes the team look completely helpless. Plus, if he had been angry after a loss, he would have punched a pillow, or maybe just a ten-foot-tall sack of brown sugar. (Perhaps the Knicks should carry one of these on the road with them from now on, just to be safe.) But mostly: He has turned a historically terrible defensive team into a competent and, sometimes, oppressive one. For that, he has been justly rewarded.

Last night, Marc Spears of Yahoo! — we worked for that company for a year, and we'll never know if you're supposed to put the exclamation point in there or not — broke the news that later today, Chandler will be named the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year. He beat out contenders Dwight Howard (who had won the award the last three seasons but was too much of a pain in everyone's arse to win it this year) and LeBron James (who is going to win the MVP, and it might have felt over-the-top to give him this award too).

It's a considerable honor for a player who already has a championship under his substantial belt. And for the Knicks, it's increasingly rare. The Knicks, perhaps because they've been so terrible for so long, do not have a storied history of individual awards. Here are all the NBA awards they've won in the last 40 years, not counting the Citizenship Award (won by Mike Glenn and Rory Sparrow), because come on:

1985–86: Patrick Ewing, Rookie of the Year
1992–93: Pat Riley, Coach of the Year
1994–95: Anthony Mason, Sixth Man of the Year
1996–07: John Starks, Sixth Man of the Year
2011–12: Tyson Chandler, Defensive Player of the Year

So, no matter what, this "era" will be remembered for something. And it might have nothing to do with Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, or Jeremy Lin. (Though Lin is one of the top candidates for Most Improved Player, announced later this week.) Tyson Chandler has stood outside the ridiculousness of this team and this franchise all season. It is no surprise that, when it came to awards, he stood above it.

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Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images