No one really expected the NBA to pick a winner in the Greatest of All Time debate this week.
Then on Tuesday morning, the league introduced the Michael Jordan Trophy, which is awarded to MVPs starting with last year’s winner Nikola Jokic.
Jordan won the MVP trophy five times, one fewer than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Meanwhile, the debate over who the NBA’s GOAT is still rages on, with LeBron James receiving widespread support.
So why did the NBA decide now was the time to name the most important individual award after Jordan? And who exactly made that call?
Honoring legendary players by having their names etched on trophies was just the latest step in the NBA movement, according to the official press release.
“Our new trophy case celebrates some of the greatest and most influential players in NBA history,” said Commissioner Adam Silver. “As we honor the league’s top players each season, we also pay tribute to the legends who embody these prestigious awards.”
Alongside Jordan, the NBA nominates Defensive Player of the Year Award for Hakeem Olajuwon, Rookie of the Year for Wilt Chamberlain, Sixth Man Award for John Havlicek, and Most Improved for Chicago native George Mikan. There will be a new Clutch Player Award named after Jerry West.
The league previously named All-Star MVP for Kobe Bryant, Finals MVP for Bill Russell, Conference Championship trophies for Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson, Conference Finals MVPs for Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, honors Coach of the Year Red Auerbach.
Abdul-Jabbar is affiliated with the NBA’s Social Justice Award, while Joe Dumars is affiliated with the Sportsmanship Award. There is a best teammate award dedicated to former Cincinnati Royals Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman.
Jordan has never practiced at the Advocate Center, although his statue across the street remains a popular tourist attraction. The Bulls showed no interest in promoting the team’s biggest player at Tuesday’s practice session.
Interview requests for current stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, Chicago native Ayo Dosunmu and John Paxson, who spoke with coach Billy Donovan for several minutes after practice, were all turned down.
Sam Smith collected a statement from Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf for bulls.com: “It is true that the trophy is symbolic of his remarkable rise to the top of the sporting world, to provide others with the inspiration that defined his incomparable career,” says the statement.
Will there be any awards named after James one day? It’s hard to imagine what that would be with so many players already assigned NBA trophies.
The Jordan vs. LeBron debate is still raging, although it feels like most who favor LeBron are from younger generations and have never seen Jordan play.
Disputes between Jordan and LeBron should always be preceded by two statements: Calling someone the second greatest player of all time is not an insult. And the two players are difficult to compare because they are very different. Jordan was the ultimate alpha scorer while James is a great all-around player and teammate.
On Tuesday morning, the NBA symbolically declared Jordan the greatest of all time, so it’s time for a new debate:
Is naming the Most Improved Award after George Mikan disrespectful of Ray Meyer?
The answer is clearly yes, as Mikan led the league as a rookie. So his greatest improvement came under Meyer’s supervision at DePaul. I’m not sure how best the NBA can fix this.