EXPLAINER: Inside the NBA’s process on changing trophies

Dec 12, 2022, 6:38 PM | Updated: Dec 13, 2022, 8:40 am

FILE - Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan holds the Maurice Podoloff Trophy awarded to the NBA basketball Most Valuable Player for the 1995-96 season in Northbrook, Ill., May 20, 1996. The trophy carried Podoloff's name for about 60 years, and has now been reimagined and renamed for Jordan. (AP Photo/Charles Bennett, File)

(AP Photo/Charles Bennett, File)

There’s been an evolution of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player trophy in the 70 or so years since it was first dreamed up.

It used to be called the President’s Trophy. Players used to do the voting. In time, it all changed; the trophy was known as the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, and a media panel of 100 writers and broadcasters now handles the voting.

As of Tuesday, there’s a new trophy and a new name — The Michael Jordan Trophy. It’s loaded with tributes to his career, foremost among them that it weighs 23.6 pounds and stands 23.6 inches tall; the 23 for his jersey, the 6 for his six championships. That took some serious work on the design end, but in the end, it was exactly what Jordan and his team wanted.

It is the biggest move in a long line of trophy tweaks and twists by the NBA in recent years. A look:


Commissioner Adam Silver has made clear, especially after the league went into the 2020 season restart bubble at Walt Disney World because of the pandemic, that the NBA needs to do even more to pay tribute to its greatest players — particularly some of the league’s Black players from a generation or two ago, whose stories may not necessarily resonate among younger fans of today.

Rebranding and redesigning is not an easy process, particularly in a league that considers itself to be steeped with tradition.

It was not a coincidence that the six new division championship trophies introduced late last season were named for Black pioneers of the game — Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, Wayne Embry, Earl Lloyd, Willis Reed, Sam Jones and Chuck Cooper.

“I know that what we do in this league is important symbolically, not just for sports but for other industries, and people watch us all around the world,” Silver said at last season’s NBA Finals.


No, this is not a conflict for Jordan even though he owns the Charlotte Hornets. Jordan rarely enters the spotlight anymore and picks his spots very carefully; he did not want this trophy to be in his likeness, did not speak out about Tuesday’s announcement and rarely offers public comment on any topic.

The MVP trophy tends to be presented by the commissioner; it wouldn’t seem likely that Jordan would be called upon to do so, even though there is no rule — tampering-related or otherwise — that would prevent it.

The NBA asked Bill Russell to present the NBA Finals MVP trophy that bears his name and he did for many years, until the pandemic and his health prevented him from continuing that tradition. Russell died earlier this year.


It’s a lot. There’s the Larry O’Brien (NBA champions), the Jordan (MVP), the Russell (NBA Finals MVP), Red Auerbach (coach of the year), Joe Dumars (sportsmanship), Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (conference finals MVP’s), Kobe Bryant (All-Star MVP), and the six divisional trophies.

There’s also a slew of new or rebranded ones announced Tuesday — Hakeem Olajuwon (defensive player of the year), John Havlicek (sixth man), Wilt Chamberlain (rookie), and George Mikan (most improved). A new trophy this year is the Clutch Player of the Year, named for “Mr. Clutch” himself, Jerry West.

“There are few greater thrills as a basketball player than coming through for your teammates and fans when they need it most,” West said. “This new trophy will be awarded to the player who best delivers in those moments.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the league’s social justice champion trophy bearing his name, David Robinson the NBA Community Assist Monthly Award one, and Bob Lanier has the Community Assist season-long trophy.


This wasn’t one or two people. The league formed a group of about 20 people, from at least a half-dozen different departments, to meet and decide how to change the trophies and in some cases the namesake elements.

The process took several months, the league said.


It doesn’t seem right that David Stern — the league’s commissioner for 30 years, Silver’s predecessor and mentor and one of the people who basically helped saved the league from financial peril in the 1980’s — doesn’t have a trophy bearing his name.

If the league adds an in-season tournament, and there are plans in place to have one possibly as soon as next season, Stern would seem like a candidate for that trophy.


AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]
26 days ago
Joe Jarzynka...
Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]
26 days ago
FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...
Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]
26 days ago
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...
Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]
26 days ago
FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...
Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]
26 days ago
FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...
Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]
26 days ago
EXPLAINER: Inside the NBA’s process on changing trophies