The NBA is renaming its annual regular-season MVP award after Michael Jordan, the player who topped the NBA team’s 75th Anniversary ESPN rankings last season.
The league Tuesday unveiled the redesigned Michael Jordan Trophy along with five other redesigned trophies named after league pioneers that will now be presented to winners of NBA’s end-of-season achievement awards.
Jordan was a five-time MVP winner during his 15-year career. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, after 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.
Besides 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 who won Defensive Player of the Year in 1993 and 1994. Chamberlain was both Rookie of the Year and MVP in 1960, averaging 37.6 points per game in his freshman season. Havlicek was an 11-time All-NBA selection, although he came off the bench for several seasons, although his career predated the creation of the Sixth Man of the Year award in 1982-83. And Mikan was widely considered the league’s first superstar, leading the Minneapolis Lakers to five championships in the 1940s and 1950s.
The league also announced a new Clutch Player of the Year award named for 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 multi-year project to redesign many of the NBA’s most important awards. Last season, the NBA introduced an updated Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, along with new conference championship trophies named after Oscar Robertson and Bob Cousy, and conference finals MVP trophies named after Magic Johnson and Larry Bird .
“Our new collection of trophies celebrates some of the greatest and most influential players in NBA history,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “As we honor the league’s top players 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 MVP trophy was named after former commissioner Maurice Podoloff, whose name will now instead be affixed to a new trophy honoring the team that sets the best record in the regular season.
According to a statement from the NBA, the new trophy will be shinier from bottom to top — “raw to refined” — symbolizing the MVP’s hard work and progression from entering the NBA to achieving their highest individual honor.
Mark Smith, a retired Nike VP of Innovation Special Projects and a Jordan Brand Designer, worked in creative partnership with Jordan to design the new trophy, which includes several details designed to honor specific elements of Jordan’s legacy. The trophy is 23.6 inches tall and represents 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 is 23 points and measures 1.23 inches in diameter.
With the exception of the Jordan Trophy, all of the new trophies were designed in collaboration with Victor Solomon, who also redesigned the NBA’s championship trophy last season. The individual prize trophies are all embedded in a 15-inch crystal mesh structure. The front is flat to allow a direct line of sight of the icon and the engraving of the award and recipient is detailed below.
“As we worked with the NBA to redesign the league’s trophy offerings, our single 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 players who have reached the pinnacle of individual excellence while honoring the NBA legends who defined that greatness.”