The Stories Behind 8 Championship Trophies


The University of North Carolina picked up another NCAA men's basketball trophy last night, which will certainly make a nice addition to the school's trophy case. The adorned wooden plank is one of the more recognizable awards in all of sports, but what's the story behind it? Here's the scoop on the NCAA championship hardware, plus the cups, statues, and trophies other athletes famously strive to claim.

1. NCAA Basketball Championship

Champions first raised the NCAA trophy we all know in 1952, when it replaced a silver cup that had previously gone to winners. The walnut plank is embellished with a metal NCAA seal and olive branches, but it's only valued at $500 or so.

This relatively understated trophy isn't the only thing champions get for winning, though. The morning after the last game of the Big Dance, the National Association of Basketball Coaches presents the winners with a much larger and more elaborate marble trophy topped with a Waterford crystal basketball.

2. The Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy

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3. The Vince Lombardi Trophy

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4. The Commissioner's Trophy

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5. The Stanley Cup

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Here's where things get confusing, though: the 35-pound Stanley Cup we know and love isn't the original Stanley Cup. The original article that Stanley purchased has been retired and is on permanent display at the Hockey Hall of Fame. The familiar Lord Stanley didn't come about until 1947, when an engraver redesigned the trophy to make it less unwieldy. Since then, it's become one of sports' most coveted treasures, partially because its rings bear the inscription of the rosters and staff of winning teams. Of course, every so often the engraving room on the trophy fills up, so the league pops off the oldest ring, flattens it out, and sends it to the Hall of Fame for display while adding a new blank ring to the trophy's base. (More photos of Hayden Panettiere and the Cup here.)

6. The Ryder Cup

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7. America's Cup

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8. World Cup

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As an odd side story, the Jules Rimet Cup isn't even around anymore. In 1983 thieves pried open the back of its display case at the main office of the Brazilian Football Confederation, and no one has seen the trophy since. Eastman Kodak, though, used nearly four pounds of gold to build a replica after receiving a commission from the Brazilians.