Tyson Chandler, the catalyst for the New York Knicks' defensive improvement, was voted the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday.

Chandler beat out Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka and three-time champion Dwight Howard of Orlando to become the first Knicks player to win the award.

The Knicks ranked in the NBA's top 11 teams in both opponents' field goal percentage and points allowed. They gave up an average of 94.7 points, an improvement of 11 per game from the 105.7 they surrendered in 2010-11, when they tied for 27th in the league.

"To me it's really a team thing. I know I'm here to accept as an individual but it's definitely a team award," Chandler said at a press conference at the Knicks' training facility.

Chandler received 311 points, including 45 first-place votes, from a panel of 121 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the US and Canada. Ibaka, the league leader with 3.65 blocked shots per game, had 41 first-place votes and 294 points.

Howard finished third, while Miami's LeBron James and Boston's Kevin Garnett rounded out the top five.

Chandler helped the Dallas Mavericks win their first NBA championship last season and made a quick impact on the Knicks. The 11-year veteran averaged 9.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots, but his biggest change was making his teammates accountable on the defensive end of the floor.

Scoring hadn't been a problem in New York under former coach Mike D'Antoni, but stopping people was.

"I'm just proud of how far we've grown," Chandler said.

The award is sponsored by Kia, which donated a new Sorento CUV on Chandler's behalf to Art for Life Foundation, which focuses on creating programs to help children use art as a way to work through physical, emotional or mental illnesses.