The new award seems designed to make the end of the season more meaningful. While the league’s best record gives you home field advantage during the playoffs, the league’s most victorious team hasn’t won the championship since the Warriors in 2016-17. In the past 20 years, the regular-season best team has won the championship just six times. Especially after the Warriors set the record for wins in a single season in 2016 and then lost in the Finals, teams are reluctant to push their players ahead of the postseason.
In the NHL, the team with the most points during the regular season receives the President’s Trophy. This award began in 1985-86 but had a precedent in the early Prince of Wales Trophy awarded to the regular season champion from 1938 to 1967. No word on whether the Maurice Podoloff Trophy will be accompanied by a cash bonus for players like the President’s Trophy does.
But there could be another reason for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to announce a new award. The league MVP trophy is also named for Podoloff, the NBA’s first league president and the man who oversaw the BAA-NBL merger that formed the modern NBA. That means the NBA trophy needs a new name.
As Brian Windhorst said on his podcast Brian Windhorst and the Hoop Collective, “With all due respect to Maurice Podoloff and his descendants, I’m not sure he needs two trophies named after him.”
Silver was aggressive in inventing and renaming trophies. Last year, for the first time, the NBA awarded the Magic Johnson and Larry Bird Trophies for the most outstanding player in each conference finals series. In 2020, he named the All-Star MVP trophy after Kobe Bryant, shortly after Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash. While Silver was the assistant commissioner in 2005, the NBA named the Finals MVP award after 11-time champion Bill Russell.
Who would the new trophy be named after? It could be Stern, although Windhorst reports that Silver strongly hinted that the winner of the NBA’s proposed midseason tournament would receive the “Stern Cup.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the most NBA MVPs with six, but the NBA only honored him with the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award last year. Bryant is hugely popular, but he’s only won one MVP trophy compared to his four All-Star awards. Russell won five MVPs, as did another player who will most likely see his name on the trophy: Michael Jordan.
Jordan is still a very popular player and still owns the Charlotte Hornets. There is perhaps no more respected former player than Jordan who is widely recognized as a GOAT. Jordan could have easily had seven MVPs, too, as voters got tired of giving him the award every year, and presented trophies to Charles Barkley in 1993 and Karl Malone in 1997. MJ beat both of them in the finals and most likely took the snub “personally.”
It remains to be seen if the new trophy will motivate teams to play harder and rest their stars less, but one thing is for sure: the MVP award is getting a new name.