Trophies, Mugs and Jugs: 30 Best Awards in Sports
Sports have always rewarded winners, whether you’re talking about professional athletes who receive gaudy trophies or 5-year-olds who get pizza or ice cream. That’s one of the attractions in competitive sports because who doesn't like being acknowledged for their accomplishments? But some accomplishments and rewards are better than others, especially in regard to professional sports.
Sports has supplied us with some of the most interesting and unique rewards for winning. These go beyond the normal trophies or rings and include items such as clothing, jewelry, sculptures, weapons, mugs and jugs and so many more. This list looks at the best sports awards and takes into account the qualifications to win them, the history behind them and their visual nature. The visual component is key, as who wouldn’t rather have a jeweled shillelagh over some rudimentary trophy?
Here are the 30 best awards in sports.
30. Silver Slugger
Awarded to: Best offensive player at each MLB position
Bottom Line: Silver Slugger
Unlike the NBA (All-NBA) or the NFL (All-Pro), MLB doesn’t have a specific award to honor the best players at each position. It has the Gold Glove, which is only reserved for defense, and it has the Silver Slugger, which only looks at a player’s offensive production.
Thus, the very best in baseball can win both gold and silver at the same time, and the 3-foot-long, bat-shaped trophy has to look pretty cool above a player’s fireplace. It is plated in sterling silver and created by the same company that makes Louisville Slugger bats, adding more prestige to the trophies.
29. World Series of Poker Bracelet
Awarded to: Winner of a World Series of Poker (WSOP) event
Bottom Line: World Series of Poker Bracelet
The meaning and significance of a WSOP bracelet have definitely increased over the years. Ten-time winner Doyle Brunson said his first bracelet didn’t mean anything, and he didn’t even bother picking up two others. But the poker boon of the 2000s elevated the profile of the sport and the prestige of the bracelet.
Actress Jennifer Tilly, who was once nominated for an Academy Award and has since become a successful poker player, said that winning her WSOP bracelet was “better than an Oscar.” It’s certainly more expensive, as some bracelets have an estimated value of $500,000 while an Oscar is worth … $1.
28. Turnover Chain
Sport: College football
Awarded to: Miami defensive players who create turnovers
Bottom Line: Turnover Chain
What started as a motivational tactic for Miami defensive players soon caught on around the country with other teams creating their own versions of the turnover chain(saw). But the original version was the best and was so Miami. Players who forced turnovers were awarded a 36-inch, 5-pound, 10-karat-gold Cuban link necklace with a giant “U” for The U.
All of the Miami brass got their own versions of the Turnover Chain from The Rock to Alex Rodriguez to A-Rod’s then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez. The Turnover Chain has become part of the lore and sell of the Miami Football program and was still used in the 2020 season.
27. Auld Mug
Awarded to: Winner of America’s Cup
Bottom Line: Auld Mug
America’s Cup is the oldest international competition of any sport in the world, dating back to 1851. It’s contested when the yacht club in possession of the Auld Mug is challenged by another yacht club. Sometimes, this is once per year, while other times it may be four or five years until there is a challenger.
As a result, New York Yacht Club (NYYC), which won the Auld Mug in 1870, successfully defended the trophy 24 times in a row for a span that lasted 132 years. The NYYC held onto the Auld Mug for all 132 years, giving them the longest winning streak in any sport of all time.
26. FIFA World Cup Golden Boot
Awarded to: Top scorer of FIFA World Cup
Bottom Line: FIFA World Cup Golden Boot
From Major League Soccer to the Premier League to the Belgian Pro League, many top-flight soccer leagues award Golden Boots to the top goalscorer. But none of them have the prestige of winning the award for being the top scorer as the FIFA World Cup.
Originally named the Golden Shoe, it was rebranded to the Golden Boot in 2010, while the second and third leading scorers receive the Silver and Bronze Boots, respectively. Showing just how prestigious the Golden Boot is, no player has ever won it more than once.
25. Yellow Jersey
Awarded to: Winner of Tour de France
Bottom Line: Yellow Jersey
The yellow jersey isn’t just awarded to the overall winner of the Tour de France, but it’s also awarded to the race leader following each individual stage. However, only the Tour de France champion is known as the winner of the yellow jersey.
Why yellow? Because the French newspaper that created the Tour de France in 1903 was printed on yellow paper. When watching the Tour de France, you may see other jersey colors such as green or polka dot, and those signify the leader of other classifications.
And why a jersey? Well, it’s quite hard for a cyclist to lug around a trophy or a belt while on a bike. The jersey is also an upgrade over what was initially awarded to the Tour leader: a simple green armband.
24. Oscar Robertson Trophy
Sport: College basketball
Awarded to: Most outstanding Division I basketball player
Bottom Line: Oscar Robertson Trophy
There are tons of college basketball trophies honoring top players from the Naismith to the Wooden Award to this one paying tribute to The Big O. But what makes Robertson’s trophy stand out is simply the unique design of the trophy. It mimics one of Robertson’s patented rebounds in which he would spread his legs while clearing space for the board.
Recipients of the award have awkwardly posed with the trophy, seemingly unsure of where to actually hold it. Would you hold it at the bottom like Doug McDermott? Would you grab a leg like Frank Mason? Or, would you go “right up under” like Trey Burke?
23. Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award
Awarded to: NBA Finals MVP
Bottom Line: Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award
Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships, but do you know how many NBA Finals MVPs he won? The answer is zero, as the award wasn’t created until Russell’s final season in 1969. And even though his Celtics won the title, the award was given to Jerry West of the losing squad — the only time in history that’s occurred.
The NBA likely realized it messed up with that, so in 2009, the league renamed the “NBA Finals MVP Award” to the “Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award.” Russell may have very well had at least 10 of these if they were around during his time, but he still gets to touch every trophy that bears his name. That’s because Russell is the one who hands his trophy to the Finals MVP at the conclusion of every NBA Finals.
22. Spinner Belt
Awarded to: WWE Champion
Bottom Line: Spinner Belt
Probably the most polarizing title in pro wrestling history, the Spinner Belt was created after John Cena became champion in 2005. Back then, Cena had a flashy, hip-hop-inspired persona, so the title fit right in, as the nameplate could be spun like the spinner hubcaps that were popular at the time.
Younger fans loved that WWE was becoming more hip, while old school fans and wrestlers alike absolutely hated it. But the design lasted eight years, and even other WWE Superstars incorporated their gimmicks into it such as Edge putting a giant “R” in the middle during his run as the Rated R Superstar.
21. Commissioner's Trophy
Awarded to: World Series winner
Bottom Line: Commissioner's Trophy
The sterling silver trophy weighs about 30 pounds and features 30 gold-plated flags, one for each MLB team. Thus, MLB has to redesign the trophy every time it expands as it has to add a flag. The visual of the 30 teams being represented on the trophy is unique to MLB and makes it stand out from the championship trophies of other major sports leagues.
Even though the Commissioner’s Trophy has only been around since 1967, and pro baseball has been around since 1876, the leader in overall World Series wins is also the leader in Commissioner Trophies. Seven of the New York Yankees’ 27 World Series championships have come in the Commissioner’s Trophy era.
20. Claret Jug
Awarded to: Open Championship winner
Bottom Line: Claret Jug
With the British Open being golf’s oldest tournament, the Claret Jug is the sport’s oldest award. It’s been around since 1872 and was originally simply called “The Golf Champion Trophy.”
The trophy has been redesigned over the years with the current one originating in 1928. Whenever a champion is crowned, he gets possession of the trophy for one year but then has to return it before the next year’s Open Championship. However, the winners also get a replica to keep permanently with their name engraved on the side.
19. Big Gold Belt
Awarded to: Wrestling world champion
Bottom Line: Big Gold Belt
Prior to the mid-1980s, wrestling belts simply looked like oversized belts rather than championships. But in 1986, a wrestling promoter named Jim Crockett Jr. commissioned a silversmith that specialized in rodeo-style belt buckles to produce something more grandiose. The result: Big Gold, which featured three distinctive gold plates and a nameplate in the middle.
The design was then used by the NWA, WCW and WWF for their championship belts, and even though the number of world titles never seemed to stop growing, Big Gold always stuck out as being a cut above.
After 28 years in the business, Big Gold was finally laid to rest in 2014 when WWE started going with a new design for their World Championships.
18. Venus Rosewater Dish
Awarded to: Winner of the Ladies Singles at Wimbledon
Bottom Line: Venus Rosewater Dish
The Men’s Singles Wimbledon trophy is OK, but it’s just a cup that could be confused for an urn with handles. The Ladies Singles trophy, however, is a majestic sterling silver dish that measures 18 inches in diameter.
It is adorned with figures from Greek mythology such as Sophrosyne, the goddess of temperance and moderation, and Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare. Winners don’t get to keep the original Venus Rosewater Dish, but they do receive a 14-inch replica containing the names of all previous winners.
17. BMF Belt
Sport: Mixed martial arts
Awarded to: Baddest MF in UFC
Bottom Line: BMF Belt
Although an unofficial title, it’s pretty cool to walk around with a belt that says you’re the baddest MF in the game. The origin of the title is that, after winning a fight at UFC 241, Nate Diaz proclaimed himself the baddest MF in the game and challenged Jorge Masvidal.
That spurred an idea in Dana White’s mind to create a baddest MF, or BMF, belt with the winner of Diaz-Masvidal getting the title. The two met at UFC 244, and Masvidal ended up victorious, thus getting the honor of having The Rock of all people place the BMF belt around his waist.
16. FIFA World Cup Trophy
Awarded to: FIFA World Cup winner
Bottom Line: FIFA World Cup Trophy
One of the most recognizable trophies in the world, the World Cup Trophy is 13.5 pounds of gold and copper. The base is the only copper part of the trophy, and while the top may look like a soccer ball, it’s actually the Earth. Underneath it are two human hands holding up the Earth, and the winners can’t wait to lift the trophy over their heads every four years.
The trophy has been handed out just 12 times, and only six countries have actually received it, making it one of the hardest in all of sports to obtain.
15. Borg-Warner Trophy
Sport: Auto racing
Awarded to: Winner of Indianapolis 500
Bottom Line: Borg-Warner Trophy
The Greatest Spectacle in Racing hands out one of the greatest trophies in sports and definitely one of the tallest. It stands 5-foot-4 and weighs 153 pounds of sterling silver. But the winners of the Indianapolis 500 don’t get the Borg-Warner Trophy — as that remains housed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — and instead, the winners get smaller replicas, nicknamed Baby Borgs.
The Baby Borg is just 18-inches tall but is much easier to travel with than the actual trophy, which is roughly the size of boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.
14. MCB Trophy
Awarded to: Winner of MCB Tour Championship
Bottom Line: MCB Trophy
Yes, you can make a “best sports awards” list by being the best of the worst. Case in point: The MCB Trophy. The MCB Tour Championship is an event on the European Senior Tour, and part of it takes place in Praslin of the Inner Seychelles, which is an island in the Indian Ocean.
The trophy is inspired by the coco de mer – or double coconut – which is indigenous to Praslin. So, yes, the trophy is intended to be a double coconut, though the crease in the middle makes it look like something else…
13. Grey Cup
Sport: Canadian football
Awarded to: CFL champion
Bottom Line: Grey Cup
Nearly all trophies won in team sports honor the team by inscribing its name onto the trophy. But the Grey Cup is one of the few that engraves not only the team names but each of the player names and executives as well. That’s well over 50 names per team, so let's give a shout out to the engraver of the Grey Cup for working overtime.
Unlike the NFL’s Vince Lombardi Trophy, which gets a new version created every time someone wins it, there is only one official Grey Cup. The winning team is simply loaned it for a year, and they then return it prior to the next Grey Cup game.
12. Vince Lombardi Trophy
Awarded to: Super Bowl champion
Bottom Line: Vince Lombardi Trophy
Did you know that every player on a Super Bowl-winning team gets their own version of the Vince Lombardi Trophy? It’s not the same size as the one the team receives, but all 53 players on a roster can get their mini-VLT if they want one.
The trophy is named in honor of former Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who won the first two Super Bowls. But the design was created from a back-of-napkin sketch by Tiffany's then-vice president during a lunch with commissioner Pete Rozelle in 1966. The original name of it was very generic, “World Professional Football Championship,” and it carried that name through the first four Super Bowls. But, following the death of Lombardi in 1970, the trophy was then renamed in his honor.
11. Golden Boot
Sport: College football
Awarded to: Winner of Arkansas-LSU game
Bottom Line: Golden Boot
There are dozens of regional rivalries in college football, but few have as cool a trophy as the Battle for the Golden Boot between LSU and Arkansas. The winner of their annual game wins the Golden Boot, which is a four-foot, 175-pound trophy that resembles the outlines of Louisiana and Arkansas.
It is molded out of 24-karat gold and carries bragging rights for an entire year. Those bragging rights have been retained on LSU’s campus for the most part, as the Tigers have gone 42-22-2 in the rivalry, which is among the most intense in the SEC.
10. Million Dollar Championship
Sport: Pro wrestling
Awarded to: Ted DiBiase by Ted DiBiase
Bottom Line: Million Dollar Championship
One of the greatest gimmicks and heels in wrestling history, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase became frustrated at never being able to win the then-WWF Championship. So, what did he do? In a very on-brand move, he purchased his own belt and christened it the Million Dollar Championship.
It was never considered an official title by WWF, but it was still extremely popular, even with younger fans who hated DiBiase. The belt has rarely been defended in its history, and only six men have held the title in over 30 years of existence.
9. Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year
Awarded to: Excellence off the field regarding an NFL player's charity work and volunteerism
Bottom Line: Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year
Originally known as the NFL Man of the Year award from 1970-99, the award was renamed in Payton’s honor due to him being a previous winner (1977) and for his work as a humanitarian.
The NFL calls it its most prestigious award, and it’s one of the few awards that doesn’t look at a player’s on-field accomplishments. With that being said, great players do tend to receive the award, as over half of the winners are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
8. Commander-in-Chief's Trophy
Sport: College football
Awarded to: Winner of series among Army, Navy and Air Force
Bottom Line: Commander-in-Chief's Trophy
Of the six United States Armed Forces, three of them compete in Division I football. Army, Navy and the Air Force contest three games against one another each year, and the overall winner of the series gets one of the most cherished trophies in sports.
The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is not for the weak — in more ways than one — as it weighs 170 pounds and needs multiple people to lift. It has three silver footballs on it, one for each service academy and also lists the years that each team won. With this being a three-way series, there are often ties in which each team wins a game. In that event, the trophy is retained by the previous year’s winner until a new outright winner is declared.
7. Championship Ring
Awarded to: Members of championship-winning teams
Bottom Line: Championship Ring
While all of the major team sports in North America reward their champions with rings, the custom is unique to this region of the world. In other countries, players don’t get rings but rather medals similar to the Olympics. But the championship ring has become a part of the American sports lexicon, and an athlete’s career is often defined by how many rings they have. Fans immediately know who you’re talking about when you mention 11 NBA championship rings or seven Super Bowl rings as Bill Russell and Tom Brady, respectively.
Rings have become so popular that even individual sports have started handing them out. Auto racing series like NASCAR and IndyCar now give them out for their championship series as well as marquee events like the Daytona 500 or Indianapolis 500.
6. Jeweled Shillelagh
Sport: College football
Awarded to: Winner of Notre Dame vs. USC game
Bottom Line: Jeweled Shillelagh
Trophies and medals are cool, but who doesn’t want to walk around with a shillelagh? The foot-long club was introduced in 1952 and donated by the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Los Angeles.
In the USC-Notre Dame rivalry, every time USC wins, a ruby-adorned Trojan head is added to the ornament. And every time the Irish claim a victory, an emerald-studded shamrock is added to the club. It currently has more shamrocks than Trojan heads, as Notre Dame leads the all-time series 47-36.
5. Hall of Fame Bust
Awarded to: Inductees into Pro Football Hall of Fame
Bottom Line: Hall of Fame Bust
We’ve seen some terrible busts created of athletes — we're looking at you, creator of this Ronaldo bust — but the Pro Football Hall of Fame generally does a great job with their sculptures. And that makes being inducted into that Hall of Fame different from other sports like baseball, basketball or hockey, which may offer plaques or photos but no busts.
Additionally, the Hall of Famers, themselves, get input, as they have final approval of the images before they become sculptures. It’s quite a visual to walk through the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and see the hundreds of Hall of Fame busts staring back at you.
4. Green Jacket
Awarded to: Winner of the Masters Tournament
Bottom Line: Green Jacket
Augusta National Golf Club surely doesn’t hold back in rewarding whoever wins the Masters. There’s the $2.07 million that goes to the winner. There’s a replica Masters trophy that the champion receives. There’s a gold medal awarded to the winner. And then there’s the Green Jacket, which has formally been awarded since 1949.
The winner of the Masters gets the green sports coat put on him by the previous year’s winner in a made-for-TV moment. Winners only get to keep the jacket for one year before giving it back to Augusta National, which then allows the winners to wear it whenever they are present on the grounds.
The green jacket, itself, is considered priceless, but one was recently sold for $139,00 at an online auction. Augusta National Golf Club confirmed the authenticity of the jacket, but the original owner’s name had been removed from it, so no one knows which Masters champion gave it away.
3. Heisman Trophy
Sport: College football
Awarded to: Most outstanding player in college football
Bottom Line: Heisman Trophy
The most prized trophy in all of college sports, the Heisman is also one of the most identifiable trophies in the world. Just think, leagues like the NFL, MLB and NHL don’t even have sculptures for their MVP awards, rather just trophies. But when you see that stiff-arm pose, you immediately know someone is “doing the Heisman.”
The Heisman trophy has an estimated value of $50,000, but Ricky Williams auctioned his trophy off for over $500,000. However, in recent years the Heisman Trust has prevented winners from selling the trophy, a mandate which dates back to 1999 — the year after Williams won his.
2. Stanley Cup
Sport: Ice hockey
Awarded to: NHL Champion
Bottom Line: Stanley Cup
In terms of trophies for championship-winning sports teams, you can’t top Lord Stanley. Standing 35-inches tall and weighing 35 pounds, there is only one Stanley Cup, as the winning team only gets to hold onto it for a year. That team then returns it, and the next team to win the championship gets it for a year and so on.
But what is permanent is the engraving of names from the championship-winning team. Most of the players as well as executives get their names sketched onto the Cup, and for a trophy that’s been awarded since 1893, space can get extremely limited. Thus, every dozen years or so a “ring” from the Cup displaying the names of winners from decades prior is removed to make room for more recent winners.
1. Olympic Gold Medal
Awarded to: First place at an Olympic event
Bottom Line: Olympic Gold Medal
Since the first Olympics in 1896 to the 2020 Tokyo Games in 2021, the Olympic gold medal has evolved just as much as athletes have over this span. The size of the medals has doubled, while the weight has increased 10 times over since 1896. But the meaning and importance have remained the same as the most coveted trophy in all of sports.
When an event comes along every four years, there is an exclusivity to it that just doesn’t come with other sports. One could win four MVP awards or four championship rings in the time it takes to win one gold medal, and some of the greatest athletes of all time never won an Olympic gold or any Olympic medal for that matter.
An interesting note about Olympic gold medals is that only a small percentage of the medal is actually gold. Both gold and silver medals are 92.5 percent silver, with the gold medal having an extra 6 grams of gold plating. A gold at the Tokyo Olympics had an estimated value of about $800, but as any winner would tell you, the honor itself is priceless.