NBA Unveils New Trophies For The First In-Season Tournament

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With the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament progressing to the quarterfinal stage, the league today introduced four new trophies and accolades that will add some bling to this new format — one that is already experiencing an uptick in fan engagement and player excitement.

The eight teams remaining are the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, and New York Knicks.

Now, instead of only striving for a conference title banner or Larry O’Brien Trophy, every team will start the year with an opportunity to lift this elegant ‘NBA Cup,’ measuring 23 inches tall and weighing 35 pounds:

According to the league, it’s a sterling silver trophy coated in 24-karat gold vermeil.

The NBA Cup was previously unveiled in early July during the Summer League festivities. It will be presented to the winning franchise at the conclusion of the In-Season Tournament Final on Saturday, December 9. Not only does it give these organizations a chance to experience some form of a championship ceremony — particularly the teams that don’t realistically have a shot to reach the NBA Finals — but a trophy of this magnitude will carry a lasting impact years down the road. Aside from the Larry O’Brien Trophy, teams rarely get a chance to showcase any new hardware in their arenas practice facilities.

The hope, of course, is that every team begins valuing it after the first year and strives to become the league-leader for this achievement (for instance, the Lakers and Celtics trying to one-up each other in championship banners).

Per the league’s press release Monday, the NBA Cup was designed by Tiffany & Co. with a heavy influence from artist Victor Solomon. As for the color, the NBA wanted to stick to gold, which highlights the significance of any achievement in team sports. However, to align with their main priority of giving the In-Season Tournament a unique feel and identity, they elected for a black ceramic base on the trophy, capped with a cup with the same color and material. According to the NBA, no other trophy in their collection includes this level of a black and gold combination.

The base includes a basketball net detail, and is apparently a mixture of the Eastern and Western Conference Championship Trophy bases. Also, the underside of the trophy features the official In-Season Tournament event logo.

Among the neat components of this trophy is how the design reflects key information about the tournament. For instance, the eight prongs attached to the cup represent all of the teams that advanced to the knockout rounds (quarterfinals and beyond). The total height of 23” signifies the inaugural year of the tournament (2023). There are 30 net openings on the base of the trophy, representing all 30 teams who had an opportunity to compete in group play.

Every player on the In-Season Tournament winner will be presented one of these shiny championship medals, also designed by Victor Solomon:

Across the front of the medal will include “NBA In-Season Tournament Champions” etched into the gold, along with the year. The league thought it was important to replicate the accolades and recognitions you often see in other prestigious basketball tournaments around the globe. Although this doesn’t carry the same weight or prideful emotions as winning the Olympics, players do value the tangible reward of their hard work and commitment to any task.

On the back of the medal, there will be a two-sided bracket with a silhouette of the NBA Cup directly in the middle. The four gold balls raised from the bottom of the medal will represent all four teams who advance to the semifinals.

As a player, this would be the honor I cared most about. Not only is it a stylish prize and vastly different than any recognition you would otherwise receive in the NBA, it also eradicates the idea of this tournament being a gimmick or something unworthy of your time. When there are medals involved, it does invite that Olympic atmosphere, making teammates push harder for one another and increasing group camaraderie.

At the end of the day, it’s more jewelry for a player to win, collect, and show off in their trophy cases. But, depending on the success of the tournament and whether or not the NBA keeps it in place long-term, it could also become something the players start holding against each other. Some healthy competition and banter about who has the most In-Season Tournament medals might sound silly right now, but it could absolutely turn into a fun talking point after a couple years.

At the conclusion of the tournament knockout stages in Las Vegas, the league will also announce an ‘All-Tournament Team’ that features the five most outstanding players of the entire In-Season Tournament.

Those five players, voted on and selected by a panel of media members, will be presented these solid, black crystal basketballs with gold channels:

One of the black channels will have a bracket pattern as the design, as illustrated above. Each ball will weigh 20 pounds and stand 7.5” in height.

This is one of two individual and performance-based awards the tournament will feature, and it’s arguably the coolest. With there only being five players selected, it only increases the incentive of appearing in every game, producing at an efficient level, and guiding your team to victory. Based on how All-NBA voting typically goes, voters tend to lean heavily toward players that make the playoffs or find themselves on the borderline. The NBA probably left the criteria for this ‘All-Tournament Team’ subjective for a reason, but most of the five selections will likely go to players who reached the semifinals and beyond.

It’s unclear if players will be eligible for this honor if they didn’t advance to the knockout stages in Vegas, but that’s why this will carry significance — if players truly care about being picked, they will push their teams to victory and leave no doubt about who belongs.

Directly after the Tournament Final on December 9, a small group of media members will also vote on the In-Season Tournament MVP. The winner will receive this new trophy:

It will be 15 inches tall and five inches wide, standing on a black three-inch base that has “In-Season Tournament Most Valuable Player” etched in gold lettering. The two-stem layout recognizes both conferences, the East and West.

Among all of the new trophies, this is the only one that looks a bit perplexing. The design at the top catches your eye, but it’s not exactly clear why it’s shaped that way, or if there’s something etched on each petal or platform. Like the NBA Cup, the MVP trophy was designed by Tiffany & Co. with help from Solomon. This one, though, could’ve benefitted from a more simplistic look with a basketball on top of the two stems.

Still, the fact the NBA is creating accolades from In-Season Tournament play is generally a great concept. Who says we only need end-of-year awards and playoff recognitions? For a season that’s entirely too long (it’s a shame the league and player’s association are so strongly against cutting the schedule by 10-15 games to help space out the calendar), some extra excitement in December is absolutely necessary. There are too many casual viewers who wait until Christmas Day or the conclusion of the NFL season to turn their attention to NBA games. Whether that’s the right or wrong thing to do is another conversation — but it’s the reality Adam Silver and the league have faced.

These added incentives, including the $500,000 in prize money, give the players something new to chase during a long, grueling schedule. The tournament (and subsequent awards) give fans another conversation to have about December basketball, with a lot more props to bet on, and another ‘legacy’ piece for their favorite team or players to put on their resume.

At the end of the day, there is simply no harm in creating additional storylines, competitions, and excitement during a season that spans from October to April. Four weeks in, the positives of the In-Season Tournament are outweighing any negative that a critic can bring to the table.

If nothing else, the winning players and teams will enjoy the new hardware and extra cash. For viewers, including myself, it has provided a December thrill that makes the regular season feel separated into different parts, which was largely the point of the tournament in the first place.

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