Long before the winners lifted them up in the air, the NBA’s post-season awards already received a big boost.
The league on Thursday announced a batch of six reimagined titles, each undergoing a renewal process. The centerpiece is, of course, the Larry O’Brien Cup, awarded to the NBA champion, which features a round-up upgrade that more reflects basketball.
One big plus: There will now be Conference Player of the Year awards, named for Magic Johnson (Western Conference) and Larry Bird (Eastern Conference), both of whom are credited with boosting the league in the early 1980s and raising the bar for the game. Those trophies raise a sterling silver ball, similar to the Conference Champion Awards.
The overall Larry O’Brien Cup size, shape and weight remain unchanged but there are notable adjustments. The base is the biggest difference since, instead of a square foundation, the cup is now placed on a pair of circular piles. The top dial lists the names of the first 75 NBA champion teams. Starting this year, each NBA champion’s name will be engraved on the bottom disc of each new trophy, ensuring that each team receives a unique trophy bearing their name.
The disc will have enough space to hold the next 25 NBA champions, ahead of the league’s centenary season.
> PHOTOS: NBA postseason awards in detail
Also, the configuration of the net and the ball forward has been changed, symbolizing the league looking to its future. The scarlet 24k gold is concealed to reveal sterling silver with an emphasis on the ball channels and grille, which have been redesigned slightly to give it more pop. Below the cup is the new NBA Finals logo. Once again, and since 1977, Tiffany & Co. is the manufacturer.
We wanted to explore and start a new 75 years and bring some aesthetic consistency into that and have some meaning behind all the accolades we’ve been awarded.”
– Christopher Arena, NBA President of On-Pitch and Brand Partnerships
“Our minds were on what the trophy should look like and how heavy it should be,” said Christopher Arena, NBA President of Infield and Brand Partnerships, who led the project. “We wanted to explore and start a new 75 years and bring some aesthetic consistency into that and give some meaning behind all the awards we’ve received.”
About the redesigned base of the Larry O’Brien Cup, Arena said, “Larry O’Brien used to have this square, rectangular base. But it was a little awkward, like, ‘Where do you take it?’ By making it a cylinder, you can grab it at any time, and you can hold it in your hand easily. There is a point of attraction in everything we have done.”
Victor Solomon, the artist who collaborated with Tiffany on the Six Awards, wanted to merge the old with the new to create different synergies.
Making the new Larry O’Brien Cup from start to finish!
– NBA 12 May 2022
“Symbolically, the trophy marks the end of the journey these athletes are taking, and I felt the symbols to celebrate the players were not celebrated,” Solomon said. “It was very exciting and unprecedented to be able to push the boundaries and (discover) what material it should be and what it should be related to and what we should do to create a coherent set of trophies. Here we have each trophy related to the other.
“A lot of it was an inspiration for what the next age would look like. One of the main rules was to use the past to broadcast what the future would look like. Use history to set the table for the next age.”
The Bill Russell Cup, awarded to the MVP of the Finals, is now finished in crimson gold to match the Larry O’Brien Cup, which features similar concealment to reveal net and basketball channels.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) names the Conference Championship Cups after Bob Cousy (Eastern Conference) and Oscar Robertson (Western Conference), a pair of legends who have been instrumental in their leadership roles with the player’s association. Both cups raise a silver basketball, divided into four divisions that represent the playoff procedure, first-round win, conference semifinal win and conference finals win. The underside lists the teams in each conference and the conference finals logo and pits on the base of each of the round-by-round scores.
The original Finals Cup was made of wood and consisted of a removable cup and base – hence the Walter Brown Cup, named after the original owner of the Celtics. In 1977, Tiffany made the current cup, and in 1984, the cup was renamed after former Commissioner O’Brien.
Arena said there has been no discussion of renaming the trophy again, mainly due to the wide familiarity with the name.
“There is fairness behind the name,” he said. “And the design had fairness, too. So that was a small shift in the dial compared to the All-Star MVP Cup, for example, which was rebuilt and named after Kobe Bryant.”
Solomon redesigned the NBA G League Cups and in the process, the idea of replaying the six NBA championships caught on and Solomon remained in the creative ring.
“We could have taken the easy route and made a bunch of shiny new things that were random, but this league and these guys deserve something more thoughtful,” he said. “What we create is time capsules, something that will be for these players and organizations as a focal point going forward.
“These trophies had so much fairness and connection to the sport that we didn’t want to throw them out the window or turn the table, we wanted to rotate them forward. We wanted something visually appealing to them that also matched the height of what they had achieved, something so cool that they might want to repeat the feat even more.” “
* * *
Sean Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can email him Here, find his archive here and follow him Twitter.
The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect those of the National Basketball Association, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.