4 Major Sports Trophies, and the People They’re Named After

July 22, 2015

It’s a big deal for a basketball player to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy…but who’s Larry O’Brien anyway?

The Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy

Larry Obrien Championship TrophyThe winning team of the NBA Finals receives this award, a two-foot-tall, 14.5-pound sterling silver basketball on a stand, covered in gold overlay. O’Brien was the NBA commissioner from 1975 to 1984—not the first head of the league, but certainly one of the most innovative. He brought NBA games to national television with CBS, and carefully merged the failed ABA into the NBA. (Before he led the NBA, O’Brien was a campaign strategist for the Democratic Party, served as Postmaster General under Lyndon Johnson…and appeared on Richard Nixon’s famous “enemies” list.) When he retired in 1984, the NBA championship trophy was renamed after O’Brien—it was formerly the Walter A. Brown Trophy, after the founder of the Boston Celtics.

The Wannamaker Trophy

Rodman Wannamaker took over his father’s Philadelphia store and expanded it into the early American department store chain Wannamaker’s. Wannamaker donated millions to the arts and sports organizations, and in 1916 held a luncheon in New York for 35 top golfers and business executives. That was the first meeting of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America, the PGA, for which Wannamaker put up the initial $2,500 investment. Still the sport’s governing body, the golfer who wins the PGA Championship, one of golf’s four “major” tournaments, takes home the Wannamaker Trophy.

Wanamaker TrophyThe Heisman Trophy

Before the NFL gained a national following, college football was the most prominent avenue of the sport. Handed out since 1935, the annual award for college football’s top player has been won by legends such as Roger Staubach, Barry Sanders, and Doug Flutie (and, uh, O.J. Simpson). The 25-pound bronze statue, which depicts a player carrying a ball and pushing away defenders, was sculpted by artist Frank Eliscu, who used as his model Ed Smith of the 1934 New York University football team. It’s still presented at the end of the season at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City, where John Heisman was the club’s athletic director.

Heisman Trophy

The Jules Rimet Trophy

Jules Rimet TrophyIt’s now officially called the FIFA World Cup Trophy, but the trophy for winning the quadrennial world soccer tournament was once named after Rimet, the third president of FIFA, soccer’s governing agency. Rimet, who concurrently served as president of the French Football Federation, helped found FIFA in 1908. Plans to hold the World Cup were already floated, but were delayed by World War I, with the first World Cup played in 1930.

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