The 2022 NBA Bill Russell MVP Trophy and Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy
The NBA and Tiffany & Co. on Thursday unveiled six NBA postseason trophies designed in collaboration with artist Victor Solomon.
The six trophies are named after NBA legends and continue the NBA’s and Tiffany’s 45-year relationship, dating back to the first Larry O’Brien Trophy that was designed and manufactured in 1977 and named after O’Brien, the NBA’s third commissioner, in 1984. Tiffany also has made the NBA’s conference championship trophies since 2001 and the Bill Russell Trophy for the NBA Finals MVP since 2005 and in 2009 was named after the Boston Celtics center who won a record 11 NBA Championships in 13 seasons.
The partners worked with Solomon, the architect of the Literally Balling art project centered on basketball aspects like the ball itself and the backboard and hoop, to design the new trophies, which were produced at Tiffany’s hollowware workshop in Cumberland, R.I., where it builds 65 trophies each year in addition to other designs.
“The NBA and Tiffany & Co. have been a part of so many trophy raises and I believe this one will feel really special to everyone,” Solomon said.
The Boston-native artist grew up around basketball — “It was such a clean platform for community,” he said to describe the sport —and the sport stayed with him through the twists and turns of his career. He moved to San Francisco and wandered into a stained glass studio, where he apprenticed for a year and made a basketball hoop backboard for himself. The positive responses around the backboard eventually led Solomon to showing work at Art Basel and hosting exhibitions in New York City and Los Angeles.
“I realized early on that the collectors looked at my work as a trophy,” Solomon explained, and he would later work with the NBA to rebrand the trophies for its developmental G League.
“What we did with the G League was very innovative conceptually,” he said. “The G League is also where the NBA experiments rules and game changes. We reconsidered what a trophy has to be and that was really fun.”
But Solomon describes working on the NBA’s trophies as being called up to the majors.
Solomon worked closely with Christopher Arena, NBA’s head of on-court and brand partnerships, in updating the trophy designs. They set out to create “aesthetic cohesiveness,” with the top prize Larry O’Brien trophy being the anchor for the language.
They reimagined the Larry O’Brien trophy, shifting the net and ball forward so the basketball’s crossing seams were more visible, placing the NBA Finals logo on the trophy’s underside and reforming the base with two stacked discs, listing the first 75 NBA Champions on the top disc and the name of each NBA Champion will be etched on the bottom disc beginning this year. The partners noted that there is enough space to display the next 25 NBA champions leading into the league’s next milestone.
The Bill Russell Trophy has been updated now completely in gold vermeil to match the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
“The Bill Russell Trophy goes back to one of our rules about continuity,” Solomon said. “They all had a relationship. Those two have been synonymous, but I felt there was a bit of a disconnect. We mimicked the Larry O’Brien Trophy with a top to bottom gold vermeil and repositioned the seams of the ball so that when you see those two pieces together they look like father and son.”
The Eastern and Western Conference Finals MVP Trophies are named after Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, perennial rivals linked through their on-court battles in college and in the NBA and partly memorialized by the HBO series “Winning Time” based on the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty when late businessman and chemist Jerry Buss acquired the team and drafted Johnson, who is portrayed by actor Quincy Isaiah in the show.
The Conference Finals MVP Trophies raises a sterling silver ball like the conference champion trophies and has a 24-karat gold vermeil net like the new Finals MVP trophy.
Finally, the conference championship trophies, which are named after the first NBPA president, “Mr. Basketball” Bob Cousy, and the first African American president of the NBPA “The Big O” Oscar Robertson, share designs similar to the original trophies created in 2001, with a silver basketball quartered into four sections representing making the playoffs and winning the First Round, Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals. The trophies differ, with the Bob Cousy Eastern Conference Trophy being raised by three posts and Oscar Robertson Western Conference Champion Trophy being raised by two rings.
“As a hoop fan, you’ll recognize the evolution of the conference trophies,” Solomon said. “There are a couple of things evolved there. The surface of the ball used to be a pebbled pattern and was switched to a high polish and quartered the ball to tell the story of a team working their way through the playoffs and each quarter represents the step in that journey. I really love that storytelling element. It’s a very subtle aesthetic note but a really interesting bit.”
Solomon added that the underside plate on the conference trophies are etched with the name of the other teams in that conference and the Conference Finals Trophy winners will have their journeys etched on the plates as well.
“All of the scores of the series along the way will be etched creating this time capsule of the journey the players went on,” Solomon said. “As we go through this, I think from an execution standpoint, they got the biggest overhaul.”
The NBA put all six trophies on view virtually in a “Trophy Room” in Horizon Worlds on their season long marketing campaign, NBA Lane, with Meta Quest 2.
Solomon remarked that he would like to see the Boston Celtics raise the Bob Cousy Trophy, but he’s nervous about their semi-final series versus the Milwaukee Bucks after losing in game five on Wednesday. But the playoffs won’t put a damper on this milestone partnership, which marks a full circle moment in Solomon’s art career as well as with Tiffany.
He explained that he would make mistakes often in the stained glass process, but his mentors would call his finished works the ‘Tiffany’. They informed Solomon that Louis Comfort Tiffany, the son of Tiffany & Co. founder Charles Lewis Tiffany, developed the process he was doing.
“Now fast forward, I’m working alongside Tiffany & Co.,” Solomon added. “It’s so wild.”