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Michael Jordan didn’t want redesigned MVP trophy to look like him

Michael Jordan

Former NBA star and owner of Charlotte Hornets team Michael Jordan looks on as he addresses a press conference ahead of the NBA basketball match between Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets at The AccorHotels Arena in Paris on January 24, 2020. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Take a look at the redesigned and renamed Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy for the Defensive Player of the Year and it looks like Olajuwon in silhouette encased in crystal. Same with the John Havlicek Trophy for the Sixth Man of the Year, or the new Jerry West Trophy for the league’s most clutch player.

However, the new-look MVP trophy does not resemble its new namesake, Michael Jordan.

That was by design — Jordan didn’t want the award to resemble him.

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Jordan worked with Mark Smith — former Jordan Brand designer and Nike executive — on the design and was clear the player should see himself in the award.

“As we worked together on this project, it was very important to Michael that the figure not be a likeness of him, but instead that the recipient should be able to see himself in the award,” Smith said. “For Michael, naming the award in his honor was recognition enough.”

That “not me” attitude may not be what we expected from the ultra-competitive Jordan, but it led to a better-looking trophy. The figure on the award is more generic — a player breaking out of the rock at his feet, the statue becomes more polished as it goes up and eventually there is a crystal basketball in the hand of the player at the top of a shot. That also was by design, the “raw to refined” look that the league says signifies “the MVP’s hard work and progression from entering the league to achieving the NBA’s greatest individual honor.”

Smith explained the process he went through with Jordan in an interview with Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer.

“This is straight out of his language, ‘The player should see themselves in this, not me,’” Smith said. “When he said ‘not me’ it clicked right away. I said, ‘OK, this is a universal theme. This isn’t a man in a uniform. This is a human form reaching for that.’ And the story of raw-to-refined really became how to bring all that together. That was a great challenge. It was a fabulous challenge.”

Of course, Jordan signed off on the new look before it was unveiled.

The real unveiling will come this spring when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hands the award off to the first winner of the new-look Michael Jordan Most Valuable Player award.