It’s no coincidence that in the same year that the NBA celebrates its 75th anniversary, the league unveils an ensemble of trophies and accolades featuring new designs and iconic players such as Larry Bird, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Bob Cousy, and Oscar Robertson.
During the conference finals, which could begin Sunday or Monday, one standout player will receive 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 entered the league in 1979 and whose rivalries have made the NBA explode in popularity in recent decades, are logical namesakes for reimagined awards for excellence that represent each conference, the league said.
“Larry and Magic define the ’80s and have that bicoastal relationship that represents their conferences like no other two people have,” said Christopher Arena, the NBA’s head of the field and brand partnerships. “We just thought it was perfect symmetry as you trickle down to the NBA Finals and you might win that Bill Russell Trophy, and of course the winning 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 NBA Championship in 1971 with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Robertson and Cousy are honored for their contributions on the field and for the impact they made as early presidents of the National Basketball Players Association. As with the original trophies created in 2001, the Eastern and Western Conference championship trophies each award a silver basketball.
“We considered potential namesakes, and we came up with those four” [former players] for what we thought were some pretty obvious reasons,” Arena said.
Newly named trophies aren’t the only changes the league has introduced this postseason, as redesigns appear on other trophies as well, thanks to an ongoing collaboration with Los Angeles-based designer Victor Solomon, Tiffany & Co. and the competition.
The Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy, introduced in 1977 and named after O’Brien in 1984, is also getting a makeover. The updated version will include a new round base with the names of all previous NBA champions etched into it, as well as changes to the appearance of the basketball on the top of the trophy and on the trophy column, which features a gold basketball hoop.
The Bill Russell Finals MVP Award trophy has received a similar update. While the conference final trophies silhouettes won’t be changed too drastically, both will have a fresh look ahead of this year’s championship series, which will kick off on Sunday.
Also earlier this season, the league debuted new trophies associated with awards honoring Kobe Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.