The Larry O’Brien Trophy leads a group of NBA postseason hardware getting a facelift — plus two brand new trophies.
As part of the NBA’s season-long celebration of its 75th season, the league has unveiled a lineup of reimagined and redesigned postseason trophies that includes the most coveted prize of them all: the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The six trophies have been designed by the league’s longtime partner Tiffany & Co. and artist Victor Solomon.
Tiffany & Co. first crafted the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 1977. It began crafting the conference championship trophies in 2001 and the NBA Finals MVP in 2005. Solomon has worked with the NBA since last year, when he designed the 2021 G-League Winter Showcase Cup MVP trophy. Since then, he has been the league’s lead man designing the following trophies.
- 2021 G-League Winter Showcase Cup
- 2022 All Star Weekend: HBCU Classic Panel
- 2022 All Star Weekend: Rising Stars Medal
- 2022 All Star Weekend: All Star Game Ring
- 2022 All Star Weekend: Dunk Contest Champion
- 2022 All Star Weekend: 3-Point Contest Champion
- 2022 All Star Weekend: Kobe Bryant All Star Game MVP
“The context for all of these sorts of things is that the trophy is a symbol of the pinnacle of this journey that these athletes go on,” Solomon told Boardroom in a Zoom interview. “The object that should celebrate that journey deserves to be as thoughtful and innovative as the guys who are receiving it. We’re in this really exciting moment where players have so much effect over culture, and they are thoughtful around aesthetics and things that they may have not been before. We really needed to create something that was special because of the opportunity to create more impact in the players’ lives.”
Outside of Tiffany & Co., Solomon worked with Christopher Arena, the NBA’s head of on-court and branding partnerships, to define the design language of the range of trophies.
“We didn’t change everything — this is a reformation,” said Arena. “Some things are evolved, some things are new, some things are edited and so forth.”
Solomon added, “This was such a daunting, crazy and overwhelming honor to have an opportunity like this and I think it really speaks to the progressiveness of the NBA. They looked back at all the trophies that had existed on occasion of the 75th anniversary season and had the creative appetite and ambition to jump in and flip the table in a way that no league has done before.”
Tradition lives in the NBA’s office. So while redesigns were made, the team did not want to venture too far off the beaten path.
“When we embarked on this journey, we acknowledged [that] the Larry O’Brien silhouette is too iconic to disrupt. There’s a universe where this goes left in a way that everyone would be very upset,” he said. “We had reverence for what had come before us, so we just wanted to contribute to the piece without flipping the table over.”
The Larry O’Brien Trophy is named after the NBA’s third commissioner who oversaw the NBA’s overtaking of the four ABA teams and its national broadcast agreements. For starters, the base of the trophy has been changed from a square shape to a circular base that has two disks on it. The top disk has all 75 NBA champions listed, and the bottom is empty and ready to be filled by the next 25 Finals winners. Fans will also notice the net on the outside of the trophy that may have gone unnoticed is now more clearly defined with silver. The bottom of the trophy will feature the new NBA Finals logo.
“This is designed to take us up to the 100th season, and then we’ll figure out the redesign at that point,” said Solomon.
As for the individual NBA Finals MVP award named after Bill Russell, gold vermeil is wrapped around it completely to match the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Bob “Mr. Basketball” Cousy, also known as “the Houdini of the Hardwood,” and Oscar “The Big O” Robertson will get their recognition, as the league will rename its conference championship trophies after the two players.
“There is only one gold ball, and that is in the Larry O’Brien Trophy, so the balls on these two are silver,” said Arena.
The Oscar Robertson Trophy will be awarded to the Western Conference Champion, and the Eastern Conference champions will hoist the Bob Cousy Trophy.
The new trophies quarter the silver ball into four sections, representing the key milestones on the road to the NBA Finals: making the NBA Playoffs, winning the First Round, winning the Conference Semifinals, and winning the Conference Finals. The underside lists the teams in each conference as well as the Conference Finals logo.
Named after Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the NBA will also add two new trophies given to the NBA’s Eastern and Western Conference Finals MVPs. Bird and Magic were chosen because of the bicoastal rivalry they shared that took the league to new heights in the ’80s.
“We had these two people, there is a symbiotic relationship with them and they should be attached. We could have come with a Bird-Magic award, but I don’t know what that would have been. But to separate them, you have to get to that conference level where there’s some equality there, and they represent the same thing,” explained Arena.
Solomon tagged in to add context: “The other thing, too — and I don’t say this to be disparaging to the Finals at all — sometimes those Conference Finals are more exciting than the Finals games. You’ll see standout, career-making moments in the Conference Finals, and this felt like a cool way to celebrate that going into the end of those series.”
The trophy resembles the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP award but switches the gold basketball at the top in favor of a silver one. This could be a nod to the fact that the ultimate trophy that an individual performance is awarded to in the postseason is the Finals MVP.
NBA players of today’s game and in the future have the chance to earn the newly-designed award. Fortunately, they have 25 years to do so until the league looks to reimagine the awards again in a quarter-century.
“None of this was really difficult, and I think that is how you know it’s right,” said Arena. “It just fell into place every step of the way.”