- Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) is a professor and an NBA analyst for ESPN.
It’s no coincidence that in the same year the NBA is celebrating its 75th anniversary, the league is unveiling an ensemble of trophies and awards that will feature new designs and will honor iconic players such as Larry Bird, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson.
During the conference finals, which could begin Sunday or Monday, a standout player will be awarded the first Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP award, and another winner will take home the first Earvin “Magic” Johnson Western Conference Finals MVP award.
Johnson and Bird, both Basketball Hall of Famers who each entered the league in 1979 and whose rivalry helped the NBA explode in popularity over several decades, are logical namesakes for redesigned awards for excellence representing each conference, according to the league.
“Larry and Magic defining the ’80s and having that bicoastal relationship representing their conferences like no other two people have,” said Christopher Arena, who is the NBA’s head of on-court & brand partnerships. “We just thought it was a perfect symmetry as you percolate up to the NBA Finals and you potentially win that Bill Russell trophy, and obviously the winningest player we have in our history.”
In addition, the newly designed Eastern Conference Championship trophy will now be named after Cousy, a point guard who won six NBA championships with the Boston Celtics. The updated Western Conference Championship trophy will be named after Robertson, a point guard who won the 1971 NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Both Robertson and Cousy are being honored for their on-court contributions as well as the impact they made as early presidents of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). Similar to the original trophies created in 2001, the Eastern and Western Conference champion trophies each raise a silver basketball.
“We considered potential namesakes, and we landed on those four [former players] for what we thought were some fairly obvious reasons,” Arena said.
Newly named trophies aren’t the only changes the league has introduced this postseason, as redesigns are also appearing on trophies thanks to an ongoing collaboration with Los Angeles-based designer Victor Solomon, Tiffany & Co. and the league.
The Larry O’Brien NBA Championship trophy, which was first introduced in 1977 and was named after O’Brien in 1984, is getting a makeover. The updated version will feature a new circular base that will include etched names of all previous NBA champions as well as moderations to the appearance of the basketball at the top of the trophy, and the column of the trophy that features a golden basketball hoop.
The Bill Russell Finals MVP Award trophy has received a similar update. Although the silhouettes of the Finals trophies won’t be changed too dramatically, both will have refreshed appearances ahead of this year’s championship series, set to begin as early as May 15.
Also earlier this season, the league debuted new trophies attached to awards honoring Kobe Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
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