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The Trophy Tour

BY DANIEL BREMMER
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 26, 2004

The Larry O’Brien Trophy, better known as the NBA
championship trophy, has never been paraded around by an NBA
champion.

Normally, an overzealous fan wouldn’t be able to lift the
trophy over his head, and a little kid wouldn’t be able to
nearly knock the trophy off of its podium.

But all that has changed. Thanks to the Detroit Pistons and
Palace Sports & Entertainment, the O’Brien Trophy is
making its way around the state of Michigan, giving fans a chance
to mingle with the Pistons’ newest piece of hardware.

And on Thursday, the trophy made an appearance on campus along
with Dave Wieme, director of strategic communications for Palace
Sports & Entertainment, who has been touring the state with the
trophy for the past two months.

Wieme brought the trophy, which was presented to the Pistons
after their NBA championship in June, to the Business School for a
mass informational meeting of Future Leaders in Sports and
Entertainment, a Business School club. Thursday’s stop was
one of nearly 150 throughout Michigan for the O’Brien
Trophy.

The event was organized by the club’s co-founders,
Business School senior Ethan Goodman — who interned with
Palace Sports & Entertainment this summer — and LSA
senior Scott Warheit.

“(Thursday was) a small pocket, sure — 50 to 100
people,” Wieme said. “But, all of those little small
pockets add up to those 100,000 people we touched over the
summer.”

This year marks the first time that the NBA championship trophy
has been prominently displayed during the summer following a
team’s championship season. The idea to take the trophy on a
tour of Michigan was borrowed largely from another prominent
Detroit franchise — the Red Wings.

Every year, the Stanley Cup — hockey’s championship
trophy — is given to a player on the championship team for a
total of 72 hours. That player can do whatever he wants with the
trophy. In past years, stories have ranged from players baptizing
children in the bowl on top of the trophy, to stories of the cup
being left unattended on the streets of New York City.

Executives in the Pistons front office decided the plan to tour
the trophy around the state would be a good one for the Pistons.
They proposed the idea to the NBA, which supported it. Soon, the
trophy was on its way to its first stop in Traverse City.

“Around Detroit, during the summer (after a Red Wings
title), you’ll see the cup,” Wieme said.
“It’s at a bar, it’s at Metro Beach, it’s
on the back of a jet ski with Steve Yzerman, its at the bottom of
Brendan Shanahan’s pool, its driving around with Kris Draper
in the back of his car — stuff like that. I saw that as a way
to keep the Red Wings on the top of mind. I thought to myself, why
don’t we do the same thing with the Larry O’Brien
Trophy. It’s never been done before (in the NBA).”

While most stops on the trophy’s tour went smoothly, not
every event went completely according to plan.

In the middle of the summer, the trophy made an appearance at
the Ann Arbor Arts Festival. Wieme had a prior engagement and sent
Goodman and another intern with the trophy to the event.

After the event, the interns gave Wieme the trophy back, but two
things were different — the net was coming off the base, and
the ball on top was spinning.

Wieme contacted a jewelry specialist who referred him to a
trophy maker in Detroit. After a quick-fix — involving an
exacto-knife and a pair of rusty pliers — the trophy maker
was able to tighten the bolt on the underside of the trophy. The
only evidence of the repair is a small, black patch on the black
felt of the bottom of the trophy, from where the repair was
made.

So what is the best part of the job for Wieme? Observing
individual fans’ reactions to seeing the trophy.

“The response you get, the first reaction is,
‘That’s not the real thing,’ ” Wieme said.
“People just can’t believe it, because they’ve
never seen it out. It’s not like (with) the Stanley cup.

“People ask, ‘How do you drink champagne out of
it?’ and I say, ‘Well you don’t — you drink
champagne next to it.”

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