Every year, the best NBA rookie hoists the Rookie of the Year trophy and gives a speech about how much it means to them. What fans might not know, however, is that the award has a name. Several of the greatest NBA players have hoisted the Eddie Gottlieb trophy, but the average person might not know anything about its namesake.
Who is Eddie Gottlieb?
Gottlieb was born in 1898 in Kiev, Ukraine. When he was still a young child, his family moved to the U.S. Growing up in the streets of Philadelphia, Gottlieb and other Americans had yet to experience a huge pro basketball league. But he took a liking to the growing sport and did everything in his power to promote it.
At 20-year-old Gottlieb coached in the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, reports Sports Illustrated. For 20 years, this club competed in leagues across America, winning several championships over clubs that would eventually become mainstays in the NBA. Then, in 1946, Gottlieb was part of the team that developed the Basketball Association of America.
On top of this, he was the owner, general manager, and coach of the upstart Philadelphia Warriors, who won the first BAA championship. Three years after its inception, Gottlieb led the BAA into its merger with the National Basketball League. The National Basketball Association was born.
The basketball icon was involved in the NBA until his death in 1979. He was honored with an induction into the Hall of Fame.
Why is Gottlieb’s name on the trophy?
To some, it might be strange to see the trophy for Rookie of the Year bearing the name of someone who never picked up a basketball in the NBA. However, without Gottlieb’s accomplishments, the league would not be what it is today.
Gottlieb received the nickname, “The Mogul,” due to his multifaceted impact on the game of basketball. When the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy was first awarded after the 1952-53 season, he was nearing the end of his career as a coach and owner, although his presence was felt for decades later.
Just as the NBA of today tries to honor those who impact the game, the league was doing this in its early years. The NBA grew out of multiple ideas that came together. Gottlieb’s name lives on that trophy as a testament to this, although the true scope of what he did might be best summed up by the names that have held the trophy.
Who has won the award?
Every player’s path to the NBA is different. Some break out ASAP, while others take their time. Winning the Rookie of the Year award and hoisting the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy is a testament to this. The names who earn it tell unique stories, from young phenoms like LeBron James and Luka Doncic to forgotten players like Don Meineke and Ray Felix.
Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird … Many of the biggest names in NBA history got their start hoisting Eddie Gottlieb’s namesake above their heads. It’s a subtle, beautiful tribute to everything that has happened to make the league a possibility.
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