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Clippers’ Jamal Crawford wins sixth-man award for the third time

Clippers guard Jamal Crawford shoots against Atlanta center Al Horford.

Clippers guard Jamal Crawford shoots against Atlanta center Al Horford.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The legend of Jamal Crawford sprouted 20 years ago at a Seattle health club where SuperSonics players routinely took it to a legion of has-beens and wannabes.

Crawford was a 16-year-old high schooler, having grown up in awe of the local NBA team. When he stepped onto the court, the roles quickly reversed.

Crawford used his fledgling crossover dribble to get past Detlef Schrempf, then an All-Star forward with the SuperSonics. Schrempf insisted that Crawford had traveled.

“He was like, ‘That’s not legal,’” Crawford recalled recently. “It was pretty cool.”

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Crawford surpassed Schrempf again Tuesday, becoming the first three-time winner of the NBA’s sixth-man-of-the-year award. Schrempf, Ricky Pierce and Kevin McHale each won the award twice.

“I’m such a student of the game,” Crawford said, “it’s unbelievable to know that you have a small part of history with so many great players that have come before you.”

Crawford, 36, became the oldest player to win the award, which he also secured during the 2009-10 season with the Atlanta Hawks and the 2013-14 season with the Clippers, when he was the previous oldest winner. The 16-year veteran called his latest award the most meaningful because of his age and his having struggled over the first two months of the season as part of a revamped bench.

Crawford’s production surged after Clippers Coach Doc Rivers asked him to become more aggressive on Christmas. Crawford also tweaked the way he had traditionally played.

“He’s moving more without the ball,” Rivers said. “It’s not all iso-Jamal anymore, it’s team Jamal.”

Crawford collected 51 first-place votes and 341 points from a panel of 130 media members. Golden State’s Andre Iguodala finished second with 288 points (33 first-place votes) and Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter was third with 182 points (19 first-place votes).

Tim Chaney, a vice president of marketing and communications for Kia, the award’s title sponsor, sparked applause during the presentation ceremony when he said the award was being named after Crawford. Clippers officials later clarified that was not the case.

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“I mean, it is Kia, he said it, so we’re going with it,” Crawford said later with a smile. “Let’s give legs to it.”

Crawford came off the bench in 74 of his 79 games during the regular season and averaged 14.2 points and 2.3 assists in 26.9 minutes overall, helping the Clippers (53-29) post a fourth consecutive 50-win season. He scored 15 or more points in 33 games off the bench, third-most in the NBA, and led the Clippers in fourth-quarter scoring with 341 points.

Crawford scored 30 points or more in four of five games he started and ranked second in the NBA in free-throw accuracy (90.4%), trailing only Golden State’s Stephen Curry (90.8%).

Crawford’s trophy is headed for a spot on the top shelf of his Seattle home office next to his previous ones. He might not be finished collecting hardware after predicting he could play at the same level “for at least five years.”

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“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” Crawford asked. “It would be based on how you felt, right? So, for me, I feel great.”

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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