NBA Unveils Division Winner Trophies Named After Black Pioneers from League History

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVApril 11, 2022

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 22:  Willis Reed
and Adrienne C. Moore attend Denver Nuggets v New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on March 22, 2019 in New York City.  (Photo by James Devaney/Getty Images)
James Devaney/Getty Images

The NBA unveiled six new trophies awarded to each division winner named after Black pioneers from league history.

Designed by Victor Solomon, each trophy has a different namesake and features a 200 mm crystal ball at its center.

The Atlantic Division trophy is named after Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, who was the first Black player to sign an NBA contract. Clifton played for the New York Knicks from 1950 to 1957 and the Detroit Pistons from 1957 to 1958.

The Central Division trophy will honor Wayne Embry, who became the first Black general manager in NBA history with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1972. He would go on to have a storied front-office career with the Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, winning the 1992 and 1998 NBA Executive of the Year awards.

The Southeast Division honors Earl Lloyd, who was the first Black player to compete in an NBA game. Lloyd debuted for the Washington Capitols just days before Clifton made his NBA debut and went on to play for the Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons. He was also briefly the Pistons' head coach for parts of two seasons.

Willis Reed, who became the first HBCU graduate to win NBA MVP and Finals MVP, will be honored by the Southwest Division trophy. Reed played for the New York Knicks from 1964 to 1974 and was honored as part of the NBA 75 team this season.

The Northwest Division trophy is named after Sam Jones, the longtime Boston Celtics guard who won 10 championships with the franchise from 1957 to 1969. 

Chuck Cooper, the first Black player ever drafted by an NBA team, is being honored by the Pacific Division. Cooper was the No. 14 pick of the 1950 NBA draft.