Meet Hakim, West and Maikan.
Like any year, 2022 was full of interesting events in the NBA – both annual, like trades, draft, championship series, and special ones: here is the Kyrie scandal (wait, are you sure this is not an annual event?) , and the now-memorable new celebration of Steph Curry, and even the memorialization of No. 6 in every NBA club in memory of Bill Russell.
But the most popular event in 2022 in the league is the renaming of awards and trophies.By the way, Bill Russell himself has a personalized prize for a long time – the NBA Finals MVP trophy. But in general, there were few such awards in the league: several in honor of ex-NBA commissioners and club managers, a couple in honor of coaches, and only five in honor of the players:
• the same Russell prize;
• Joe Dumars Sports Conduct Award;
• Twyman-Stokes Trophy for best teammate;
• All-Star Game Most Valuable Player – in memory of Kobe Bryant ;
• and an award that recognizes contributions to the fight for social justice – in honor of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar .
Moreover, the last two awards “gained a name” only in 2020. Unlike the NHL or college basketball, where virtually every trophy is named after someone, the NBA didn’t have that tradition.
When the NBA announced ahead of the 2020 All-Star Game that the game’s MVP Trophy would have a new name, we were already considering how we could build on that tradition:
The NBA is now giving the Kobe Bryant award. And you can also name trophies in honor of Wilt, Kareem, Byrd, Stern
Some of the options were so obvious that, after a while, the NBA really gave the great players of the past the highest honor: secured their awards for them.
The project to rename – and at the same time redesign – the trophies was supposed to come true last season, it would have been timed to coincide with the league’s 75th anniversary. But the year before last, a covid pause, a compressed calendar and other problems forced the NBA to move these plans forward a year.
And in 2022, we received 18 (!) new personalized awards.More precisely, some of them are old, but either had no name other than a technical one, or bore the name of another person. But completely new prizes were also invented.
The first batch was announced back in April. The winners of each of the 6 divisions of the NBA at the end of the regular season received crystal balls on a stand, on which the name of one of the six black pioneers of the NBA flaunted:
• Chuck Cooper – the first African American drafted in the NBA;
• Nat Clifton – the first who signed a contract;
• Earl Lloyd – first to play in an NBA game (a few days ahead of Clifton and Cooper), as well as the first champion and first assistant coach;
• Willis Reed – legendary Knicks center became the only graduate of the so-called “historically black college / university” (HBCU) in the history of the NBA, who won the MVP of the season and the final series;
• Sam Jones is the most titled HBCU graduate: 10 NBA championship rings;
• Wayne Embry is the first black general manager.
During the playoffs, new prizes were added.
The winner of the West Finals now receives the Oscar Robertson Trophy and the Conference Finals MVP the Magic Johnson Award .
In the East, the team prize is named after Bob Cousy , the individual prize is named after Larry Bird .
Oscar’s name on this list seemed strange – he played most of his career in the East, played in the Western Conference Finals only three times and was not the best player in the series in any of them (his teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was). It would have been more logical to assign this award to Robertson’s contemporary Jerry West, who has 11 West finals in his career. But in the NBA, it was as if they had set an unspoken condition: the doubles awards should have equality in skin color. If the rule works for Bird Magic, then Bob Cousy needed a black man to pair with, not West. And still there was a better candidate than Robertson: Elgin Baylor (10 participation in the final series of the West).
Moreover, as it turned out, for Oscar there would still be an option with a different award, because the league did not stop at new prizes, but began to rename existing trophies.
In late May, the NBA gave the Community Service Award a new name in honor of recently deceased center Bob Lanier . Until the mid-2010s, the owner of this award was entitled to the “David Robinson Plaque of Honor”, but in recent years this plate, given monthly, has disappeared somewhere, and the laureates at the end of the year began to receive an unnamed glass statuette. Well, as “nameless” – branded by the sponsor Kia.
And last week, the NBA introduced a new design for the usual awards.The Basketball Basket Crystal Figure will be awarded to Dumars, Twyman-Stokes, Coach of the Season (Red Auerbach), and General Manager (still unnamed). They differ only in engraving and a golden figure inside – for example, the award for the best GM has a pyramid with five side faces, and the prize for sportsmanship has a handshake of two players.
One of the presented awards was different in design and new in meaning: a crystal ball (similar to the cups for division winners) is now awarded to the team that has become the best in the NBA regular season. Analogue of the “President’s Trophy” NHL.
The name on the ball turned out to be interesting. ” Maurice Podoloff Trophy “. Podoloff – the first commissioner of the league (in those years the position was called “president”).
The choice is good, but there is a nuance: from the mid-1960s until 2022, the “Maurice Podoloff trophy” was the MVP of the season.
So, ahead of us was the renaming of the main individual award of the NBA.
And so it happened, at the same time capturing the rest of the trophies. Once again, an unspoken racial rule can be suspected: three awards are named after black players, three after white players. However, all six are the most worthy candidates.
So NBA MVP is now the Michael Jordan Trophy
Someone doubted that in the event of a rename, MVP would receive the name of Jordan?
Actually, yes. They doubted, and the reasons are as follows: firstly, Michael is the current owner of one of the NBA clubs (Charlotte), and it is a little embarrassing to receive a prize named after a representative of a competing team (Hornets players are unlikely to be often recognized as MVP). Another, more prosaic reason for doubt: Jordan is a sub-brand of Nike, and while it’s now the official NBA outfitter, it won’t always be. We are used to the fact that the league always tries in advance to avoid any possible corporate conflicts.
But all these doubts were crumpled up and thrown into the ballot box more precisely than Michael threw free throws with his eyes closed.Jordan’s 60th birthday next February is a great giftespecially since there were no other candidates left – Russell, Karim, Magic, Byrd, Kobe have their own personalized trophies. And it is logical that the MVP award bears the name of the player, and not the manager or coach (perhaps that is why they cut off the David Stern option).
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Michael himself received MVP 5 times, Russell had the same number, only Karim had more (6), and in their time the design was wild: the figurine of the player with the ball is on the bowl, the bowl is on a stand with four player figures, the stand is on four columns, columns – on another stand, on which there is a second bowl with another one with a player figure. That is, for some reason, six players are recruited in this gigantic composition as tall as a person (not Karim and Bill, but an ordinary one). In addition, the design of the bowls themselves was not constant.
In the 1980s, the design was updated, the prize became more compact, it was not necessary to order a separate cabinet for it. This is how the already familiar sculpture of a basketball player in a pose from the NBA logo appeared (which, in turn, was created on the basis of a photograph of Jerry West). These were the ones that Michael, LeBron (4 pieces), Curry (2) and all the way to Giannis and Jokic received. And now this design is in the past.
A new bronze (but much more shiny) figurine also depicts the player, but now he holds the ball above his head. The “ball” itself is a 23-sided crystal with a diameter of 1.23 inches (23 is Jordan’s game number).
Other references to Michael’s career:
• Height of statuette – 23.6 inches, weighs 23.6 pounds, “6” in this case – the number of championship titles Jordan;
• five MVP awards inspired the cup’s pentagonal base;
• plate on the base – hexagonal, also in honor of Michael’s championship rings;
• The base is slanted 15 degrees, representing Jordan’s 15-year NBA career.
The design of the trophy in collaboration with Jordan (where without the trademark of Michael himself) was created by Mark Smith, a former designer for Nike and specifically Jordan Brand. And it’s the only NBA trophy, new and redesigned, to have a custom design.
Because the “Best Defender”, “Best Rookie”, “Best Substitute” and the rest, although they have acquired new names, have lost their external uniqueness. The same crystal vases-cups-baskets as the “Best Coach” or “Best Teammate”.
Clutch Player of the Year Award – Jerry West Trophy
As already mentioned, before the redesign, West, albeit indirectly and unofficially, was the inspiration for the former MVP statuette. With the Lakers’ great defenseman and manager still without a name, the league decided to come up with a whole new trophy for him – the best player in decisive moments of matches.
After all, one of West’s nicknames is “Mr. Clutch.”
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The winner could also be determined by dry statistics, as the “Most Selfless Player of the Season” (Hustle Award) is calculated, but they decided to act in the traditional subjective way: the coaches will determine the pool of nominees, the journalists will choose the best.
In the 2020 text, I suggested naming another prize after West. The NBA has named another great player for this position:
Most Improved Player of the Year Award – George Mikan Trophy
Frankly speaking, only myopia progressed in Mikan’s game in the NBA. He came into the league as an already established dominant center, and before his NBA career, he was even recognized as the MVP of the NBL, a stronger tournament at that time. The tallest star of the early NBA simply had nowhere to grow, either literally or figuratively.
But 70+ years before Mikan gave the name to the award, he gave it to one of basketball’s fundamental workouts: the “Mikan Drill.” Student coach Ray Meyer developed a clumsy center drill that involves alternating hands to hit balls from under the basket and immediately pick them up. This developed the mobility of the legs and the dexterity of both hands, first by Maikan himself, and then by his followers, and from that moment basketball became a game for tall people.
George Mikan is a bespectacled seminarian who became the first superstar in basketball. He saved both the Lakers and the entire NBA from early death.
Many generations of basketball players have progressed through basic drills like the Mikan Drill, hence the NBA’s idea to call the prize for the most progressive that way.
This is the second tribute to Mikan this season – earlier, his No. 99 was finally officially retired by the Lakers (George played for the team before moving to Los Angeles, Minneapolis Lakers LAL players are usually not considered their legends, but consider their championship titles).
With the rest of the awards, it was quite easy to guess the new names:
Rookie of the Year Award – Wilt Chamberlain Trophy
This prize had a name before – the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy, the first coach and later manager and owner of the Warriors, nicknamed “The Mogul”. Now the award has been renamed – it’s a pity they didn’t listen to me, because there was a more elegant solution.
Wilt is the brightest rookie in NBA history, in his rookie season he became MVP, leading the entire league in points, rebounds and playing time. 37.6 points per game!
How Wilt Chamberlain set one of the greatest records in sports – scoring 100 points in one match
But who exactly provided Wilt’s super-bright rookie season in 1959/60? That Eddie Gottlieb. Back in 1955, he secured the rights of the Philadelphia Warriors to the still schoolboy Chamberlain (who could already perform the trick with two balls depicted on the award) thanks to the “territorial draft” in force in those years. In fact, such a draft was intended for students from nearby colleges, but Gottlieb demanded the right to Wilt, who graduated from high school in Philadelphia and went to the University of Kansas, far from the territories of other NBA clubs. Never before or since this incident did the NBA give clubs the right to local students.
But licenses are just licenses, and in 1959 Gottlieb also had to buy Wilt from the Harlem Globetrotters, with whom he had traveled the world the previous year, before dropping out of college. In general, it was not just that the award was named after Gottlieb – and it is a pity that the name of Wilt was crossed out, and not added to the name of Eddie.
Defensive Player of the Year Award – Hakim Olajuwon Trophy
Only one person has influenced basketball defensive practices and strategies more than Hakim: Bill Russell. But the Celtics legend already has a personalized prize, so “Mr. Castle” could not “get” to anyone other than Olajuwon.
If Russell was the first center to defend against a full five, Olajuwon was the first center to defend not as a center—well, not just as a center. Hakim was not only a great “rim protector”, locking the space under the ring and blocking the opponent’s shots, but also one of the best in safety net, in neutralizing pickenrolls and even in interceptions – which is generally not typical for the “big”.
Hakim destroyed Jordan at his peak. And that’s why
Substitute of the Season Award – John Havlicek Trophy
If Hakim was the most versatile player on defense, then Havlicek was the most versatile player in general in basketball. He played both in the back line and in the front line, he could score points, play, he was an elite defender, and most importantly, he was not at all shy about leaving the bench if it was more profitable for the team.
Being the “sixth”, Havlicek won titles, got into the All-Star Games and even into the symbolic team of the season, and although by the end of the 60s he became not just a main player, but the main star of the club, he calmly returned to the role of a substitute both at 30 and at 35 Including – in the famous final-1976.
White boy problems. John Havlicek by Bill Simmons
There are still many legends, fewer prizes, but the nameless ones remain. Firstly, the already mentioned prizes “for hustle” and the best NBA manager.
Secondly, apart from the name of the sponsor, there is no name for the trophies for the winners of the dunk, three-pointer, skill, and Rising Star Game MVP contests; and there are not even trophies themselves for the leaders of the season in terms of scoring, rebounding, assists and other key statistics. And if prizes are awarded for “hustle” and “clutch”, you can also give prizes for “grind”, “handles” or “swag”, why not.
Thirdly, as it turned out, not a single name on a goblet or figurine can be safe: if necessary, they will reset it to zero and rename it. Therefore, do not be surprised if in the next playoffs the players will not fight for “Larry” – the champion Larry O’Brien Trophy, bearing the name of the third NBA commissioner since 1984 – but for some “David”, “Shaquille” or, for example, “Roman”.