It’s no coincidence that in the same year that the NBA celebrates its 75th anniversary, the league unveiled an ensemble of trophies and awards featuring new designs and iconic players like Larry Bird, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Bob Cousy and others will honor Oskar Robertson.
During the conference finals, which could begin Sunday or Monday, an outstanding player will be honored with the inaugural Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP award and another winner will be taken home with the inaugural Earvin “Magic” Johnson Western Conference Finals MVP award .
Johnson and Bird, both Basketball Hall of Famers who joined the league in 1979 and whose rivalry helped the NBA skyrocket in popularity over several decades, are logical namesakes for newly designed awards for excellence that represent each conference, according to the league.
“Larry and Magic define the ’80s and have this bi-coastal relationship that represents their conferences like no other two people have,” said Christopher Arena, the NBA’s head of on-court and brand partnerships. “We just thought it would be perfect symmetry if you leak through to the NBA Finals and potentially win that Bill Russell trophy and obviously the most accomplished player we have in our history.”
Additionally, the redesigned Eastern Conference championship trophy is now named after Cousy, a point guard who won six NBA championships with the Boston Celtics. The updated Western Conference championship trophy is named for Robertson, a point guard who won the 1971 NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Robertson and Cousy are honored for their contributions on the field and for their impact as early presidents of the National Basketball Players Association. Similar to the original trophies created in 2001, the Eastern and Western Conference Champion Trophies each honor a silver basketball.
“We thought about possible namesakes and ended up with these four [former players] for what we thought were pretty obvious reasons,” Arena said.
Renamed trophies aren’t the only changes the league has introduced this postseason, with redesigns appearing on other trophies as well thanks to an ongoing collaboration with Los Angeles-based designer Victor Solomon, Tiffany & Co. and the league.
The Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy, introduced in 1977 and named after O’Brien in 1984, is also getting an overhaul. The updated version will feature a new circular base that includes etched names of all previous NBA champions, as well as changes to the basketball appearance on top of the trophy and on the trophy’s pillar with a gold basketball hoop.
The Bill Russell Finals MVP Award trophy has received a similar update. Although the silhouettes of the Conference Finals trophies won’t change too dramatically, both will have a refreshed look ahead of this year’s championship series, which is set to begin as early as Sunday.
Also earlier this season, the league introduced new trophies tied with awards honoring Kobe Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.