By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The NBA is finally recognizing Celtics guard Marcus Smart for the defensive beast that he is. For the first time in his career, Smart has made the NBA’s All Defensive First Team, the league announced Wednesday.

Smart has been the heartbeat of the Boston defense since they drafted him sixth overall in 2014, and he once again put together a dynamic defensive campaign during the 2018-19 season. Smart helped lead a Celtics defense that averaged the third-fewest points in the NBA, logging a career-high 1.8 steals per game. His 143 swipes were the third-most in the NBA during the season.

Earlier this season, when asked why he hadn’t been named to an All-Defensive First or Second Team, Smart said it was a popularity contest and he didn’t need a piece of paper to tell him that he was a great defensive player. But that didn’t stop Boston head coach Brad Stevens from campaigning hard for Smart during the season.

“Marcus is a really good defender who probably should have been on All-Defensive teams before and for whatever reason has not been,” Stevens said in December. “So maybe if everybody could write a little blurb for him, I think that would be nice because he should be on it every year. He’s a great defender.”

The NBA finally listened to Stevens, Celtics fans, and anyone who has gone up against Smart, making him the first Boston player to land on the NBA’s All Defensive First Team since Avery Bradley did so in 2016.

Smart led all NBA guards in the voting with 145 total points, receiving 63 First Team votes and 19 Second Team votes.

Boston guards Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown (one vote apiece) and forward Al Horford (four votes) all received Second Team votes. Yes, you read that correctly, someone gave Kyrie Irving an All-Defensive vote. But Houston Rockets guard James Harden somehow received a pair of First Team votes, so there must be something in the water among NBA voters. At least they finally got it right with Smart.

Joining Smart on this year’s All-Defensive First Team are Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Oklahome City’s Paul George, and Utah’s Rudy Gobert.

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