NBA renaming MVP after Jordan in awards update

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The NBA is renaming its annual regular-season MVP award after Michael Jordan, the player who topped ESPN’s ranking of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team named last season.

The league unveiled the newly designed Michael Jordan Trophy on Tuesday, along with five other reimagined trophies named after league pioneers that will now be presented to the NBA’s end-of-season performance award winners.

Jordan was a five-time MVP winner during his 15-season career. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for whom the league’s Social Justice Champion award is named, won more MVP trophies (six).

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic will retroactively receive the first version of the new trophy after being named MVP last season.

In addition to the Jordan Trophy, the other renamed awards are:

  • The Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy for Defensive Player of the Year

  • The Wilt Chamberlain Trophy for Rookie of the Year

  • The John Havlicek Trophy for Sixth Man of the Year

  • The George Mikan Trophy for Most Improved Player

Olajuwon was a nine-time All-Defensive Team selection who won Defensive Player of the Year in 1993 and 1994. Chamberlain won both Rookie of the Year and MVP in 1960, averaging 37.6 points per game in his first season. Havlicek was an 11-time All-NBA selection despite coming off the bench for several seasons, though his career predated the creation of the Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1982-83. And Mikan was widely regarded as the league’s first superstar, leading the Minneapolis Lakers to five championships in the 1940s and 1950s.

The league also announced a new award for Clutch Player of the Year, named after Jerry West, who played in nine Finals and remains the only player to win Finals MVP while losing the series.

The new trophy updates are part of a multiyear project to reimagine many of the NBA’s most important awards. Last season, the NBA unveiled an updated Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, along with new conference championship trophies named after Oscar Robertson and Bob Cousy, plus conference finals MVP trophies named after Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

“Our new collection of trophies celebrates some of the greatest and most impactful players in the history of the NBA,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “As we recognize the league’s top performers each season, we also pay tribute to the legends who embody these prestigious awards.”

The Michael Jordan Trophy features an NBA player breaking out of a rock to reach for the ultimate rock: a crystal basketball. Previously, the league’s MVP trophy was named after former commissioner Maurice Podoloff, whose name will now instead be attached to a new trophy honoring the team that posts the best regular-season record.

According to a statement from the NBA, the new trophy grows more burnished — “raw to refined” — from bottom to top, signifying the MVP’s hard work and progression from entering the NBA to achieving its greatest individual honor.

Mark Smith, a retired VP of innovation special projects at Nike and a Jordan Brand designer, worked in creative partnership with Jordan to design the new trophy, which includes several details intended to honor specific elements of Jordan’s legacy. The trophy stands 23.6 inches tall, representing Jordan’s jersey number (23) and number of NBA championships (six).

The trophy’s five-sided base is a nod to Jordan’s five league MVPs, and the crystal basketball at the top consists of 23 points, and measures 1.23 inches in diameter.

With the exception of the Jordan Trophy, all the new trophies were designed in collaboration with Victor Solomon, who also redesigned the NBA’s championship trophy last season. The individual award trophies all feature an embedment inside a 15-inch crystal net structure. The front face is flat to allow for a direct line of sight to the icon, and the etching of the award and recipient is detailed at the bottom.

“While working alongside the NBA to reimagine the league’s trophy offerings, our singular goal was to create a cohesive collection of honors worthy of the athletes who raise them,” Solomon said in a statement. “These trophies celebrate the hard work of the players who reach the pinnacle of individual excellence while honoring the NBA legends who have defined that greatness.”

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