Larry O’Brien Trophy Symbol Of Victory, Tradition For NBA Greats
To the victors go the spoils — and in professional sports, there are rings, there are patches, and there are bragging rights. But none of it can compare to the feeling of hoisting a trophy over your head. Standing just over two feet tall and topped with a gold sphere the same size as a regulation basketball, NBA playoffs are fought for this one — and the teams who emerge from the NBA playoffs victorious get to possess it for a full year.
Considered the pinnacle achievement among basketball awards, the Larry O’Brien trophy might often be dwarfed in size by the players who are honored to hold it and smile for the cameras — but ask any one of them and they’ll tell you, there is no bigger victory than that at the NBA basketball playoffs — and no bigger win than this trophy.
Miami NBA Playoff Wins In 2012, 2013 Kept Trophy In South
The Larry O’Brien Trophy is currently held by the Miami HEAT, whose playoff victories in 2012 and 2013 have kept the trophy in Florida for two years in a row — it had been in Dallas the previous year and Los Angeles for two years before that. In 2012, the HEAT beat Western Conference champions Oklahoma City 4 games to 1, with superstar LeBron James being named the finals’ MVP; in 2013, Miami took seven games to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 4-3 — and James took home another MVP award.
But who was Larry O’Brien, the man for whom the trophy is named? Let’s put it this way: if it’s in any way fair to credit a single man with the stature currently enjoyed by the NBA or with the popularity of the playoffs NBA fans know and love, it’s Larry O’Brien.
That isn’t to say O’Brien was always in the world of basketball; far from it. A former Democratic Party chairman as well as Postmaster General under President Lyndon Johnson, O’Brien’s career in politics put him in contact with some of the most powerful people on earth. Indeed, many observers put the credit for John F. Kennedy’s successful U.S. Senate campaign largely at O’Brien’s feet, through the passionate innovator’s targeted use of volunteer staff in one of the most advanced statewide election efforts of its time. Kennedy obviously agreed; he appointed O’Brien as the national director of his 1960 presidential campaign.
O’Brien was appointed commissioner of the National Basketball Association in 1975, and stayed in that position until he retired in 1984 — overseeing a tumultuous period for the league that included the groundbreaking merger between the NBA and the American Basketball Association, as well as easily the largest expansion of television viewership of basketball in the history of the sport.
NBA Finals Watched By More TV Viewers Than Ever Before
That expansion was due in no small part to O’Brien’s tireless efforts in negotiation with major television networks, ultimately including cable channels that brought NBA games to a level of popularity no one could have predicted. Perhaps most notably, O’Brien is credited with moving the NBA’s TV contract from ABC to CBS, although it’s arguable the NBA’s move to cable television channels ESPN and USA in 1982 was even more groundbreaking. During O’Brien’s time as commissioner, the NBA expanded from 18 to 23 teams as fan attendance rocketed to 10 million annually; he oversaw both the adoption of the three-pointer in 1979 and the introduction of the salary cap in 1983. Upon his retirement from the NBA, the league re-named the playoff trophy in his honor — it had been previously known as the Walter A. Brown Trophy, named after the original Boston Celtics owner in 1964. For his contributions to the sport, O’Brien was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.
So if you’re one of those Miami HEAT fans impatiently asking when do the NBA playoffs start and when can I start relaxing about the Larry O’Brien trophy staying in Miami where it belongs, we can only say what the former NBA commissioner himself might have said: stay tuned, these are going to be some great games.