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The NBA has many trophies used to express individual excellence. Earning Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, or any other award is a huge honor. Yet by far, the most coveted prize is the Kia NBA Most Valuable Player award.

Winning an MVP award nets a player huge accolades and an addition to their basketball resume. It also means they get a special trophy, formally known as the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Let’s investigate who Podoloff was and the recent push to rename the trophy after the late Kobe Bryant.

Who was Maurice Podoloff?

Those unfamiliar with Podoloff’s name often assume he was a player from a bygone era of basketball. Yet Podoloff managed to have a huge impact on the league without ever hitting the floor. Instead, he acted as the NBA commissioner for 14 years, from 1949 to 1963.

Before his time with the NBA, Podoloff served as the commissioner of the Basketball Association of America (BAA) from 1946 to 1949. He negotiated the merger that saw the BAA and National Basketball League join together to form the NBA. In other words, Podoloff played an instrumental role in turning basketball into the sport we know today.

Podoloff’s impact on the NBA didn’t stop there. He introduced the first college draft and implemented the 24-second shot clock, which drastically improved the pace and flow of games. Under Podoloff’s control, the NBA greatly extended its influence and popularity. To honor his historic role, the NBA named the MVP trophy after Podoloff.

The importance of the NBA MVP Award

Miami Heat guard LeBron James sits by the Maurice Podoloff MVP Trophy
Miami Heat guard LeBron James with the MVP Trophy in 2012 | Hector Gabino/El Nuevo HeraldMCT via Getty Images

Since its inception, the MVP has been the benchmark for NBA excellence. It’s also been the most important factor for getting into the Hall of Fame. In fact, of all the players who have ever won an MVP and became eligible for the Hall of Fame, none have failed to get in. Winning an MVP award is basically a free pass to the single greatest honor for an NBA player.

Naturally, the annals of MVP winners are filled with some of the greatest names of all time. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the record for most MVPs of all time, at six. Michael Jordan and Bill Russell finish right behind Abdul-Jabbar, with five MVPs each. Meanwhile, LeBron James has secured four MVP trophies so far — the same as Wilt Chamberlain.

The youngest player ever to earn the MVP award was Derrick Rose, who was just 22 during the 2010-11 season when he won. Meanwhile, Stephen Curry holds the honor of being the only player to ever win a unanimous MVP award. The sharpshooter achieved the historic milestone for his historic 2015-16 season. (Curry also won the MVP in 2014-15.)

The push to rename the MVP trophy

Following the tragic death of Kobe Bryant in January 2020, many fans pushed the NBA to rename the MVP trophy in his honor. One dedicated fan even set up a petition. Yet the NBA didn’t seem ready to rewrite history in such a big way. Instead, the league honored Bryant by naming the All-Star Game MVP Award after him.

That same Bryant contingent has also petitioned to change the NBA logo from a silhouette of Lakers legend Jerry West to one of Bryant. While that movement has generated a lot of support, most league insiders concur that this kind of change won’t happen anytime soon.

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