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NBA renaming individual player awards

Joel Embiid, Michael Jordan Trophy recipient, would sound pretty good

1996 Most Valuable Player Award Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

In a story from ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry, the NBA is renaming five major individual player awards to honor legends of the game.

With the MVP award now being named the Jordan Trophy after six-time NBA champion, five-time NBA MVP, and Space Jam star Michael Jordan, five other major awards are also being changed as followed:

  • Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy for Defensive Player of the Year
  • Wilt Chamberlain Trophy for Rookie of the Year
  • John Havlicek Trophy for Sixth Man of the Year
  • George Mikan Trophy for Most Improved Player
  • Jerry West Trophy for Clutch Player of the Year (a new award which I’m sure won’t involve any debate whatsoever about what it means to be “clutch” — go create that content, NBA)

As noted in the story, Nikola Jokic will retroactively receive the first Jordan Trophy after winning MVP last season. It would have been cool for Joel Embiid to receive the first Jordan Trophy, but THEY HATE THE PROCESS. (Just kidding. Or am I???)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver made this statement on the award changes:

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

As you might expect, plenty of thought was put into the trophy redesign. From Goldsberry:

“The Michael Jordan Trophy features an NBA player breaking out of a rock to reach for the ultimate rock: a crystal basketball...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...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.”

The Sixers could certainly be in the conversation for a few of these new awards at the end of the year. Currently averaging 33.4 points per game, back-to-back MVP runner-up Joel Embiid would be the NBA scoring leader once again if he met the games played requirement. If he regains his early-season form upon returning from injury, Tyrese Maxey will be under discussion for Most Improved Player. De’Anthony Melton received down ballot votes for Sixth Man of the Year last season, and is currently averaging career-highs in a number of different categories.

I’m always in favor of moves to honor past players of the game and this entire redesign seeks like a thoughtful exercise on the part of the league. Well done all around, I’d say.

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