Category - Major Events
Comparing the PGA, NBA and NHL’s Championship Trophies
By Adam Stanley
As we inch closer to summertime, so starts the season of championships in sports.
While the PGA Championship tees off in mid-May, the playoffs for both the NBA and NHL are hitting their apexes.
The Wanamaker Trophy is one of the most impressive winners’ offerings in all of sports, but how does it stack up to the NBA’s Larry O’Brien Trophy or the Stanley Cup from the NHL?
Here’s a tale-of-the-tape on some of the most recognizable trophies in North America.
And of note – the Wanamaker won’t be the only one of these on site at this year’s PGA Championship. After the Stanley Cup appeared at Southern Hills last year, the Larry O’Brien Trophy was at Oak Hill on May 19.
The Wanamaker Trophy
Standing 28 inches high, 10.5 inches in diameter, and weighing in at 27 pounds, the Wanamaker Trophy has been around since 1916.
Rodman Wanamaker, a sportsman and department-store heir, brought prominent golfers and other figures from the game together and formed the PGA of America that year. Wanamaker, the man, put up both the purse from his own pocket, along with the silvery trophy chalice.
Jim Barnes was the first name engraved on the trophy (he won the first two PGA Championships, in fact) and the original 1916 Wanamaker Trophy is now displayed at the new home of the PGA of America in Frisco, Texas.
The Champion each year gets to hold onto the duplicate Wanamaker Trophy for one year. That duplicate was crafted in 1926 after Walter Hagen, in the midst of his four-in-a-row victories, just didn’t bring the trophy with him one year and admitted he actually lost it. Each winner, however, gets to keep a replica – about 10 percent smaller than the original trophy – forever.
The Stanley Cup
So named after Lord Stanley – the Governor General of Canada at the time – the Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy to be awarded in sports, commissioned in 1892 as, originally, the “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup.”
The first cup was awarded in 1893 to the Montreal Hockey Club before becoming the unofficial championship trophy of the NHL in 1926 and the official-official prize for the NHL’s champion in 1947.
There are three Stanley Cups in existence. The original “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup” (which is actually more like a bowl), the Presentation Cup – offered to the NHL’s champion each year – and the Permanent Cup which is on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The current Stanley Cup is topped with a copy of the original bowl and has a height of 35.25 inches and weight of 34.5 pounds – about a half-a-foot taller than the Wanamaker Trophy and 10 pounds heavier.
The Montreal Canadiens have won it the most – a record 24 times, including most recently in 1993, while the Detroit Red Wings are the winningest American squad, having won it 11 times – most recently in 2008.
Winning teams get to keep the Stanley Cup during the summer months and hockey’s off-season before also receiving a limited number of days during the season for players, coaches, and key staff to have their own “Day with the Cup.”
Given its unique size and bowl-shape, stories run the gambit on what actually happens with it throughout the year – from drinking out of it, to letting dogs eat out of it, and even having children baptized in it.
The iconic way to celebrate winning the Stanley Cup is to lift it above your head with two hands, a celebration Brooke Henderson was encouraged to do with the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship trophy in 2016.
The Larry O'Brien Trophy
On display at Oak Hill Country Club this week was the officially-known-as Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy. Originally, the “Walter A. Brown Trophy” was awarded up until 1977. A new trophy was created for the 1977 NBA Finals and kept the Walter A. Brown name, but the trophy was officially renamed the “Larry O’Brien Trophy” in 1984, honoring the former NBA commissioner.
Unlike some other trophies in pro sports, the Larry O’Brien trophy is given permanently to a winning team and a new one is crafted each year.
The smallest of each of the three trophies covered off here, the NBA championship trophy is just two feet tall and weighs 15.5 pounds. Crafted by Tiffany & Co., it’s made of vermeil and sterling silver but has a 24-karat gold overlay.
The Los Angeles Lakers have won it the most. The squad has 11 trophies in their case, most recently in 2020.