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NBA Shines With New Playoff Hardware

The NBA's most prestigious playoff awards have a new look.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, the NBA has unveiled new trophies and awards that will feature new designs and will honor iconic players. The players being honored are icons such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bob Cousy, and Oscar Robertson. 

Conference Finals Award

In 1979, the NBA did not have the drawing power or cultural influence it does today. Ratings were very poor for the NBA playoffs in those days, but then the model of basketball as big-time entertainment rode in on the backs of two men: Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird. The entertaining rivalry of Magic vs. Bird changed the NBA. There is no understating that the very NBA we watch today may not have ever existed without the back and forth rivalry of the Celtics and Lakers, whose squads were anchored by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

"Larry and Magic defining the '80s and having that bicoastal relationship representing 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 was a perfect symmetry as you percolate up to the NBA Finals and you potentially win that Bill Russell Trophy, and obviously the winningest player we have in our history."

With that in mind, the best player in the Eastern Conference finals will be awarded the first Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP award. The other winner will take home the first Earvin "Magic" Johnson Western Conference Finals MVP award. I can't imagine an award name more fitting than the aforementioned two. It's perfect. 

As for the Eastern Conference championship trophy, it will now be named after Boston Celtics legend, Bob Cousy, who won six NBA championships as a member of the Celtics. The newly designed Western Conference championship trophy will be named after Oscar Robertson. Robertson, "The Big O" was a regular triple-double machine before Russell Westbrook. 

Cousy and Robertson are being honored for their on-the-court legend status as well as their impact as early presidents of the National Basketball Players Association.

The Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy is also getting a makeover. The newest iteration will feature a circular base that will have etched names of all previous NBA champions. The top of the trophy is also getting minor modifications. 

"We considered potential namesakes, and we landed on those four [former players] for what we thought were some fairly obvious reasons," Arena said.

NBA Swishes Another One

Of the major sports leagues here in the United States, the NBA seems to always be ahead of the curve in its marketing decisions, and in the ones that honor its past. These changes are no exceptions. It's worth noting that on top of being the best player choices for the updated trophies, the NBA selected two white men and two black men. It's a perfect symbolic choice as well as the right basketball choice. Too often symbolic changes tend to fall short in the context of accomplishments, whereas choices supposedly made only by merit wholly miss in the face of what is just and honorable. The NBA nailed this one.