The Defensive Player of the Year Award was created in the 1982-1983 season, and was given to the player who played the best defense each year. Blocked shots, steals, and more go into this decision. Generally, this award goes to forwards and centers, who can use their incredible height and athleticism to block shots like they’re volleyballs. But on five different occasions, guards won the award. Who were they, and what happened in their careers? That’s what we’ll look at today.
For the first two seasons the award was introduced, a guard by the name of Sidney Moncrief won the defensive player of the year award. Sidney Moncrief was 6’3″, but that didn’t stop him from being a defensive force. He finished his career as a 5-time All Star, a 5-time All-NBA Selection, a 4-time member of the All-Defensive First Team, had his jersey, #4, retired by the Bucks, and as a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year. And yes, Sidney Moncrief was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2019.
After Moncrief, the next guard to win the award was Alvin Cooper. He won Defensive Player of the Year once, in the 1985-1986 season. Alvin played in the NBA for 10 seasons, and led the league in steals for three. Steals are the primary reason that the 6’3″ guard won the award. Although he is the least impressive player out of the five who won the award, he is one of four players to ever put up a quadruple double, with a stat line of 20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 steals. He finished his career with averages of 14 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.7 steals. He was a 4-time All Star, a 6-time member of the All-Defensive Team, won the NBA’s Most Improved Award in 1986, and made one All-NBA Second Team appearance. He also scored the first points ever for the Toronto Raptors. He was not inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he also had some legal problems off the court.
The next winner of the award was Michael Cooper, and he won it the year after Alvin, in the 1986-1987 season. He was a 6’5″ shooting guard, but also sometimes played small forward and point guard. For this article, he still counts as a guard, though. Michael Cooper was only known for his incredible defensive abilities, and for being a member of the Showtime Lakers. He won five championships with them, but didn’t average over 10 points for his career. He never made an All-Star appearance or an All-NBA selection. But he was a 5-time member of the All-NBA Defensive First Team, a 3-time member of the All-Defensive Second Team, and won the Citizenship Award. If Michael Cooper was anything, he was a defensive monster and a winner, winning five championships in the NBA, two in the WNBA (as a coach), and one in the D-League (also as a coach). He played a solid twelve years in the NBA, and was a coach for a long time after.
The year after that, none other than the GOAT himself Michael Jordan won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Yes, the award was won by a guard three years in a row. There’s not much to say here. Michael Jordan is one of four players to win Defensive Player of the Year and MVP in their career. Of course, there’s not that much to say about MJ since we all know so much about him already: 6-time champion, 5-time MVP, Hall-Of-Famer, and the greatest player of all time.
The last player to ever win this award as a guard was Gary Payton, in the 1995-1996 season. He won this award on the Seattle SuperSonics, the now Oklahoma City Thunder. Gary Payton had an excellent career, and was nicknamed “The Glove” for his defensive abilities. He was also an incredible trash talker. He’s a Hall-of-Famer, 1-time champion, 9-time All-Star, 9-time member of the All-NBA, and a 9-time member of the All-Defensive First Team. Among all the guards to win this award, he has the second best resume and is the only point guard to win this award. All the others have been shooting guards.
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