Five of the NBA’s most recognizable awards underwent a total makeover, and five of them now bear the names of Hall of Fame players, as part of the organization’s Tuesday morning announcement. Hakeem Olajuwon is the recipient of the Defensive Player of the Year award, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Olajuwon’s lockdown defense. The Rookie of the Year trophy features a player palming two basketballs, eerily reminiscent of famous pictures of Wilt Chamberlain, for whom the award is named, doing the same. The John Havlicek trophy for Sixth Man of the Year depicts a player pulling up for a running jumper in Havlicek’s trademark pose, while the George Mikan trophy, which will be awarded to the league’s Most Improved Player, depicts a gold figurine performing the Mikan Drill.
The trophies for four of the five prizes resemble the player after whom they are named. But that’s not the case for the MVP award, which bears Michael Jordan’s name.
As a substitute, the MVP trophy has a player emerging from a rock at its base and reaching upward for a crystal basketball, which is meant to represent “an MVP’s never-ending pursuit of excellence.” But the prize bears little resemblance to Jordan, which was a deliberate strategy on the part of M.J. The six-time champion reportedly didn’t want the trophy to look like him, according to Mark Smith, a designer for the Jordan brand who collaborated with Jordan and the NBA to create the trophy that bears his name.
“Look, what’s the name of the award? he was dying to ask. The NBA’s Michael Jordan Most Valuable Player honor is being given. That says everything. whatever is at the top. That’s it, truly “through the Charlotte Observer, Smith stated.
Smith continued by outlining Jordan’s justification for that choice.
The gamer should view themselves in this, not me, is directly from his words, Smith claimed. “When he said, “Not me,” it immediately made sense. This is a universal theme, I said. Not a man wearing a uniform, this. A human shape is attempting to grasp for that. How to tie everything together really became the focus of the raw-to-refined story. What a difficult task that was. It presented an amazing challenge.”
The most competitive NBA player in league history may find that to be a rather unexpected explanation. This is a man who was never afraid to humiliate colleagues in practice or rivals on the court. Given his lasting influence on the game and the several stances that could have been used for the award, it is somewhat surprising that he did not want the MVP trophy to be made in his image. The most recognizable Jordan posture, the one from the 1988 dunk contest that launched a shoe empire and a brand under the Nike banner, probably couldn’t have been utilized due to trademark difficulties, so perhaps that also played a role in the decision.
Apart from that, though, Jordan always showed respect for those who came before him when he spoke about who the greatest in league history was, despite his ultra-competitive temperament and confidence, which frequently led to him being branded as a jerk and cocky while he was in the league. Jordan stated in a 2009 interview that he would never refer to himself as the greatest player, saying: “I believe it is disrespectful to Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain. Never would I assert that I am the best player. This is because I never had the opportunity to play against every representative in the league before Michael Jordan.”
It makes fitting that Jordan didn’t want the MVP trophy to resemble him, but rather to leave room for each player who wins the award to see himself in it, given his constant attempts to avoid being referred to as the G.O.A.T.