Victor Solomon is no stranger to the intersection of art and basketball. A lifelong NBA fan, his ongoing project “Literally Balling“—think stained-glass backboards, golden hoops, and crystal nets—is devoted to “celebrating basketball as a vehicle for ascension and reimagining its icons in lux materials and techniques,” as he explained in a recent Q&A with the folks at Tiffany & Co. As for why he was speaking to Tiffany in the first place, well, that’s the big news.
Today, for the first time in 45 years, the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy—so named in 1984, seven years after Tiffany started making it in 1977—is getting an aesthetic update. It’s not a complete overhaul, by any means. But look closely and you’ll see the changes. The net and ball have shifted forward—a direct reference to the NBA’s focus on the future—and now have sterling silver channels contrasting the 24k gold vermeil. And the base is now comprised of two discs, one with the first 75 NBA champions inscribed on it, the other waiting for the next 25 in anticipation of the league’s 100th anniversary.
“When we embarked on the project, we reviewed all that’d come before and used the NBA’s history of honors to inform our approach for this new era. There was a lot that we shed, but used a handful of signature anchors as foundation to build from,” explains Solomon, who also worked in tandem with Tiffany & Co. and the NBA to rework five other postseason trophies. “Of course, the Larry O’Brien and its iconic silhouette was effectively untouchable, but deserved a facelift and conceptual upgrade for the occasion.”
Despite the changes, the trophy, which stands 25.5 inches tall and weighs a whopping 29 pounds, is still made with the same attention to craft and detail it always has been in Tiffany & Co.’s Hollowware shop in Rhode Island. From forming the two halves of the regulation-sized basketball in sterling silver to eventually etching off the 2.5 micron gold vermeil to reveal the channels, everything is done with the regard for artisanship you’d expect from the object representing basketball’s highest honor.
An artist himself, and one poised for an even bigger profile thanks to this project, Solomon is uniquely positioned to appreciate this. “Any project begins with the spark of an idea,” he says. “And with stakes this high, voices to consider, teams and techniques and materials to wield—it’s an incredible gift to see the spirit of what we set out to accomplish finally rendered in perfect form. As we’ve arrived at the end of our journey to re-imagine NBA honors, our athletes are arriving at the end of their journeys to receive it. And I couldn’t be prouder of the moment: the poetry of these two parallel disciplines re-connecting at the summit.”
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