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NBA Finals Trophy: Can You Name It?
by Jason Shimberg - 06/09/2005

NBA commercials this year include Dwyane Wade sculpting a trophy out of sand on Miami's South Beach, then commenting, "Now that is a work of art." Dirk Nowitzki leaving endless messages on the trophy's answering machine. We see Tim Duncan getting therapy from Dr. J about the trophy. So can you name that elusive NBA Finals Trophy? The Trophy is made by Tiffany & Co., features a regulation size basketball sitting in a cup etched to resemble the basketball net. It is made of sterling silver with a 24K gold overlay, stands two-feet tall and weighs 141/2 pounds.

The NBA championship game has been played since 1947. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics have appeared in more championship rounds and won the title and taken home the NBA Finals trophy far more times than the rest of the hopefuls. In 1978, the year Larry Bird was drafted; the current NBA styled trophy was named the Walter A. Brown Trophy; it replaced an earlier cup-type trophy believed to date to the league's inception in 1949. The Washington Bullets were the first champions of the "modern NBA trophy" era.

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To the victors go the spoils. The Greeks use to reward champions with crowns of laurel, but today of course we prefer the metallic version. We're also more into team sports than individual, hence the rise of the trophy. In sports like hockey -- when there was hockey -- winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate achievement. A trophy symbolizes triumph over the enemy. In hunting we call an animal a trophy when it is killed. Or for some a trophy can be a trophy wife, which serves to show others we have succeeded beyond even our own wildest dreams.

NBA players are awarded an individual ring months after the achievement, while the team receives immediate gratification. The NBA Finals trophy is handed out the night the championship is won, symbolic of years of individual hard work and team effort. I remember MJ holding the trophy in the locker room, tears of joy and pain covering the gold, a year after his father was murdered. Trophies don't seem to lose significance no matter how much success you have, or how mature you have become. They are symbolic of a goal we have set and mountain that has been climbed.

Whoever is awarded the coveted NBA Finals trophy this year, Spurs or Pistons, few will remember who the man for whom it was named in 1984, Larry O'Brien. This year's championship round is the meeting of the last two Larry O'Brien winners. There is a lasting image of last year's winner the Pistons and 6'8 Ben Wallace with afro unleashed holding up the trophy. But who is Larry O'Brien?

Lawrence Francis O'Brien was born on July 7, 1917 and died September 27, 1990. He had a long association with the Kennedy family, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, the powers of the Democratic Party. In 1972, he was the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, at the time his office located in Watergate building was burglarized, eventually leading to the downfall of Richard Nixon. O'Brien even worked for the now immortalized Howard Hughes as a lobbyist trying to influence Washington, in his favor.

>From 1975 to 1984, O'Brien served as the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA). During his tenure as Commissioner, he oversaw the successful merger of the NBA with the American Basketball Association (ABA), negotiated television contracts with CBS, and saw game attendance increase drastically. O'Brien stepped down as commissioner in 1984, leaving the league in its best shape ever; gate receipts doubled, television revenue tripled and the image and awareness of the league had reached new heights. O'Brien continued his contributions to the game as he served as president of the Basketball Hall of Fame from 1985 to 1987.

David Stern, one day your name too will be placed upon a little, perhaps short golden image. You will join others in other sports immortalized and symbolic of achievement, trophies such as:

Commissioner's Trophy - Major League Baseball: This trophy was first presented in 1967. It features flags with each of the (currently) 30 teams on it. The World Series champion gets to keep it and a new one is made each year. It could be looked at as a weapon with all the flags looking like spikes. As you may have seen in a Seinfeld episode George ( Costanza, not Steinbrenner) took the trophy and tied to a rope on the back of his car, and dragged around Yankee Stadium's parking lot in an attempt to get fired.

Stanley Cup - National Hockey League: First presented in 1893, making it the oldest trophy, no trophy has greater brand recognition. Lord Stanley's Cup winner gets to keep the trophy for one year, and each player on the team gets the trophy to himself for one day. It even has its own personal escort. The trophy started as a bowl, but rings have been added, since the trophy actually has the names of every player of every winning team on it. As the NHL went on strike, and there were no finals does that mean the Tampa Bay Lightning winners from '04 get to keep the cup two years consecutively? I wonder.

Vince Lombardi Trophy - National Football League: This trophy was first presented in 1967. The Super Bowl champion gets to keep it and a new one is made each year. There is nothing wrong with this design it is simple. Handcrafted by Tiffany & Co. and valued at $12,500, the trophy depicts a football in kicking position that is made entirely of sterling silver. It stands 22 inches tall, weighs seven pounds and takes 72 man-hours to create.

Trophies have value to more than just the athlete and team owner. We have heard of security issues with the Oscar's, but few are aware of security issues with the Larry O'Brien Trophy. In 1996, this story came off the AP wire:

The Chicago Bulls may not be the only ones hoisting an NBA trophy if they win tonight's game. A display model of the seven-kilogram trophy is missing and police think it was stolen en route to a Chicago jewelry store. Like the real thing, the display trophy was made by Tiffany and Co. in New York. It was part of a shipment destined for display at the jeweler's Michigan Avenue store, police and a Tiffany's spokeswoman said today. The $9,000 trophy was reported missing Monday, though the actual theft is believed to have occurred May 28 or 29, said Chicago Police Sgt. Vernis Jones. The trophy was to have been shipped from New York to Newark, N.J. and on to Chicago. But a driver hired to pick up it up at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport noticed that the crate believed to contain the trophy was unlocked, Jones said. The driver delivered the crate to Tiffany's Michigan Avenue store, where the crate was opened and the theft was discovered, Jones said. The sergeant said police believe the theft occurred in New York or New Jersey. The real trophy and its copy are both sterling silver globes shaped like a regulation-size basketball, perched on the rim of a basket and dipped in 24-carat gold, said Tiffany's spokeswoman Nadine Feinstein. Both weigh the same. Feinstein said the actual trophy is in Seattle, where the Bulls could claim it if they win tonight's game against the Supersonics.

Larry O'Brien rest in peace!