The NBA today unveiled six new trophies for the league’s division winners, each named after an NBA legend and African-American pioneer. The trophies, which will now be awarded to the division winners at the end of every season, celebrate the teams’ season success and honor the pioneers who helped pave the way for the NBA players that have followed.
The trophies, designed by Victor Solomon, each suspend at its center a 200mm crystal ball, comprised of six segments representing each of the NBA’s divisions. One unique segment in each trophy is rendered in gold, representing its respective NBA division. The design of the trophy base is inspired by the division’s conference championship trophy. Each trophy is inscribed with its namesake, along with the name of the team recipient; the division standings are inscribed on the back of the trophy.
Atlantic Division: The Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton Trophy
The first African-American to sign a contract in the NBA, Clifton played for the New York Knicks from 1950-57 and was an NBA All-Star in 1957. In his first season he helped lead the Knicks to their first Finals appearance.
Central Division: The Wayne Embry Trophy
The first African-American to become an NBA general manager (with the Milwaukee Bucks) after a lengthy playing career that included five NBA All-Star appearances and an NBA championship in 1968. Embry transitioned to the front office after his playing career and rose to become the first African-American to be named General Manager. He continued as a basketball executive with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors and was named Basketball Executive of the Year in 1992 and 1998.
Southeast Division: The Earl Lloyd Trophy
The first African-American to play a game in the NBA, Lloyd played for the Washington Capitols, Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons. The Army veteran played nine NBA seasons and won an NBA title in 1955.
Southwest Division: The Willis Reed Trophy
Reed, a graduate of Grambling State, is the only HBCU graduate to be named league MVP and Finals MVP. Reed played his entire career with the Knicks, winning two championships. A seven-time NBA All-Star and five-time All-NBA selection, Reed was Rookie of the Year in 1965 and was named to the league’s 50th and 75th Anniversary teams.
Northwest Division: The Sam Jones Trophy
Jones, a graduate of North Carolina Central University, has won more championships than any HBCU graduate who has played in the NBA. He won 10 championships as a member of the Boston Celtics from 1957-69 and was a five-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA selection and a member of the league’s 25th, 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams. Jones was nicknamed “The Shooter” for his ability to hit clutch shots in championship runs. He stood up for the rights of African-Americans in the league and in the country during a pivotal time in the 1960s.
Pacific Division: The Chuck Cooper Trophy
The first African-American player to be drafted in the NBA, Cooper was selected with the 14th overall pick in the 1950 NBA Draft. A veteran of the Navy, he played six seasons in the league with the Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons.