A "trophy" is defined as "a cup or other decorative object awarded as a prize for a victory or success." So while the word tends to bring to mind gold- or silver-plated objects that are kissed, bitten and held high in the air, they don't just have to be like the soccer participation trophy you now deride as the reasons for the downfall of America but thought was pretty awesome when you were six.
These rankings are based on a nebulous criteria that mostly focuses on design, coolness and that elusive je ne sais quoi, but also factors in importance too. Without further adieu, here are the greatest 10 trophies in sports (and then the five worst).
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10. Harley J. Earl Trophy (Daytona 500)
The Daytona 500 (Sunday on FOX!) has one of the most unique trophies for a major sporting event. The Harley J. Earl Trophy is a four-foot behemoth shaped in Daytona's famed tri-oval design. The award's large base is surrounded by name plates of former winners and is topped by what looks like a silver-plated pinewood derby car. (It's actually based on the GM prototype Firebird I car). For the past 20 years, winners have received a replica of the trophy that weighs 54 pounds.
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9. Vince Lombardi Trophy (Super Bowl)
A new Lombardi Trophy is made every year by Tiffany, the company that created the sleek, timeless design back in 1966 after, as legend has it, the company's former VP sketched it out on a napkin. The trophy itself costs $1,625 based on the price on silver (and not including labor and the markup that makes that blue Tiffany box an always-appreciated gift).
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8. All Valley Karate Championship
When Daniel fought Johnny at the end of "The Karate Kid," they were doing it for more than just bragging rights, submission, finishing a nine-month-old beef and Ali with an "i." The double-decker trophy that stood about four-feet tall was the real prize. That Mr. Lawrence took the trophy from the referee to present it to Daniel himself shows that maybe there was more than one karate kid.
7. Heisman Trophy
The Heisman is so iconic that it's made a transition into popular culture, with a stiff-arm or blowoff getting named after the trophy for college football's best.
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6. Yellow jersey (Tour de France)
Seemingly everybody associated with French racing in the 1910s has taken credit for the creation of the yellow jersey, but the accepted story is that after the green armband worn by the race leader proved too hard to see, Henri Desgrange, the founder of the race, decided to make a yellow jersey for the leader, using the color of the broadsheet newspaper he edited, L'Auto. The daily changes of the Tour's identifying kit make it one of the most unique in sports.
5. Wimbledon, gentlemen's and ladies'
Winners of the Wimbledon trophies, which have been around since 1887, receive a three-quarter-sized replica of the Gentlemen's Singles Trophy and Venus Rosewater Dish. (Why one got a cool name and the other didn't is lost to the ages.) Mythological representations adorn the dish while the men's cup needed a plinth added in 2009 because there was no more room to add the names of the men's winner.
4. Claret Jug (British Open, golf)
Any trophy you can drink from is a trophy worth winning. There's only one "real" Claret Jug and it's passed on from winner to winner. When the championship golfer of the year returns the Jug after having it for a year, he gets a replica.
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3. Masters' Green Jacket
In the fourth playing of The Masters back in 1937, club members wore green jackets so patrons could identify those who wouldn't be dispensing fake news about, I don't know, the pimento sandwiches. It was also so waiters could identify who should receive the check. (Note to self: Buy green jacket for wife. Encourage her to wear it to dinner.) Later, when champions were admitted to the club, they were presented with their green jacket in celebration. The green jacket presented in Butler Cabin is a stand-in — golfers get their customized green jacket soon after. After a year, the jacket is returned to Augusta, where it can only be worn on club grounds.
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2. Stanley Cup (NHL)
The best trophy in team sports, bar none. It's the only trophy of the big four not to be produced annually, famously going from team to team and player to player and town to town every year. It's easily the most traveled trophy in history. The Stanley Cup includes every winner's name, not to mention the coaches and executives who get engraved too. (Twelve women have their names on the Cup.) It's not the original Cup though: That was taken out of rotation in 1963 upon fears that it was too brittle and placed in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Since then though, it's the same trophy every year, held high above the heads of Orr, Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier and Crosby. Other trophies are shared and given to the winner for a year but most of the time (like with the Claret Jug) the winner hands in the real trophy and gets a replica in return. The souvenir they keep is the Stanley Cup ring.
1. Olympic gold medal
There is no higher designation of athletic achievement, nor any more famous. An Olympic gold medal is the pinnacle of sports.
Onto the 5 worst trophies (starting with the bad and ending with worst in all of sports):
5. AFC or NFC conference championship trophy
For 25 years, the AFC and NFC used to give out the awesome Lamar Hunt and George Halas Trophy, respectively, which was an AFC "A" or NFC "N" placed atop a football-shaped platform with a standing mural of bronzed football players behind it. Then the NFL decided that vanilla was better and changed the trophies into a hollowed-out football sitting on a pedestal about as big as a hockey puck. "It's the stepping stone," NFL VP of brand Jamie Weston said at the time. "You are almost there." Almost. But you're already at snoozeville.
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4. Wanamaker Trophy (PGA Championship)
It's not that the Wanamaker Trophy is bad, per se, it's that it's far too grand for the victory it signifies. The PGA Championship is the ugly stepchild of golf's Grand Slam. It doesn't deserve a trophy so large.
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3. Super Bowl MVP
It's like someone chopped the football off the Lombardi pedestal and gave it to the MVP. Last year, this trophy was great — Von Miller was given a gold football to honor the 50th Super Bowl. But this year it was back to the plain silver that's seemingly on every boring NFL trophy.
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2. NCAA championship trophies
Win a basketball title? Get a cheap-looking, wood-paneled trophy. Win a field hockey title? Get the same cheap-looking, wood-paneled trophy. Win a tennis title? Get the same cheap-looking, wood-paneled trophy. The key difference is an etching of the sport on the glass that fills the keyhole shape under the NCAA logo. All due respect for winning the Division III field hockey title but it's super lame that Villanova's national basketball championship trophy doesn't look much different. But more than that, the trophies are just boring. How about a gold-plate epee for fencing or some silver goggles for swimming. There are cool trophies to be had. The unoriginal NCAA obviously can't be bothered with that.
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1. FIFA World Cup Trophy
The only thing worse than the trophy's name is its stature: 14 inches tall, 13 pounds. For an award that signifies world domination it's awfully plebeian.