The NBA revealed six new division-winning trophies Thursday, each named after an NBA hero and African-American pioneer. The awards, which will now be presented to division champions at the end of each season, honor the pioneers who helped pave the way for the NBA players who came after them.
Each of the trophies, designed by Victor Solomon, features a 200mm crystal ball with six segments representing each of the NBA’s divisions suspended in the center. Each trophy features a gold part that represents the NBA division it represents. The trophy base’s design is based on the division’s conference championship trophy. The namesake of each trophy, as well as the name of the winning team, are engraved on the front, while the division standings are engraved on the back.
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 NBA Finals appearance.
Central Division – THE WAYNE EMBRY TROPHY
The first African-American to become an NBA general manager (with the Milwaukee Bucks) after a long-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. He was an NBA champion in 1955. A veteran of the US Army, he played nine seasons.
Southwest Division – THE WILLIS REED TROPHY
Reed, a graduate of Grambling State University, is the only HBCU graduate to be named league MVP and Finals MVP. Reed played his entire career with the New York 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. He was a five-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA selection and a member of the league’s 25th, 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams. He was known as “The Shooter” for hitting clutch shots in the championship runs. He stood up for the rights of African-Americans in the league and in the country during a pivotal time in the 1960’s.
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 US Navy, he played six seasons in the league with the Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons.