The NBA has revamped many of its awards and trophies in recent years. The All-Star Game MVP award was renamed for Kobe Bryant. The Eastern and Western Conference Finals series were given MVP awards, which were named after Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, respectively. The championship trophy has been redesigned, and a new trophy named for Maurice Podoloff will be given to the team that finishes with the best regular-season record.
But on Tuesday, the NBA announced its biggest awards shakeup yet. Several of its highest-profile trophies have been renamed and redesigned in honor of Hall of Fame players. Here is the complete list:
- The MVP award will now come with the Michael Jordan trophy.
- The Defensive Player of the Year trophy has been named after Hakeem Olajuwon.
- The Rookie of the Year trophy has been named for Wilt Chamberlain.
- The Sixth Man of the Year trophy has been named after John Havlicek.
- The Most Improved Player trophy will be named after George Mikan.
In addition, the league has introduced a new award for Clutch Player of the Year, which will have a trophy named after Jerry West. All of the trophies were unveiled on Tuesday.
The NBA today unveiled six newly designed trophies named after NBA legends, which will be presented to the end-of-season Kia Performance Award winners. The lineup is headlined by The Michael Jordan Trophy, awarded to the Kia NBA MVP.— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) December 13, 2022
Ironically, none of the trophies were named for the player that won them most often. Michael Jordan won five MVP awards, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six. Olajuwon won Defensive Player of the Year twice, but Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo won it four times. Rookie of the Year can obviously only be won once, and Havlicek and Mikan were both retired by the time their awards came into existence.
Yet in each case, the award itself is synonymous with its new namesake. Jordan is widely considered the greatest player in NBA history, so the league's highest individual honor makes sense for him. Olajuwon is viewed as the best defender since Bill Russell, who already has the Finals MVP trophy named after him. Havlicek was the first player known for coming off of the bench. Chamberlain and Wes Unseld are the only rookies ever to win the MVP award, so one of them made sense as the Rookie of the Year honoree.
The NBA, more than any other professional league, thrives on star power. No sport places a greater emphasis on individual awards. Now those trophies are named in honor of the players who most embody what they represent.