Football coach Vince Lombardi is alleged to have said "winning isn't the important thing; it's the only thing." Indeed, there is an enormous emotional high that comes with winning a championship at a sport's highest level, but the amount of money sports leagues spend to reward their champions is nearly as large. Here's a breakdown of the cost of those rewards, at least in dollars and cents.
Super Bowl Trophy – $50,000
The trophy handed to the NFL champion, named in Lombardi's honor, is no ordinary piece of tin. This sterling-silver Tiffany and Co.-created trophy is nearly two feet tall and shaped like a kick-ready football. Done from scratch every year, it costs $50,000, takes four months to complete. The words "Vince Lombardi Trophy" and the NFL shield are engraved onto the base.
After the final gun sounds, the seven-pound trophy is presented to the winning team, then sent back to Tiffany to be cleaned and engraved with the winning team's name, the date and final score of the Super Bowl. The trophy is then sent back to the winning team for them to keep.
World Series Trophy – $15,000
Cleveland Indians fans have sadly never witnessed their team raise what is called the Commissioner's Trophy. Even though there has been a World Series since 1903, the trophy wasn't doled out until 1967. As with the Lombardi Trophy, a new Commissioner's Trophy is created each year.
The current trophy design, another Tiffany production that was tweaked a bit in 1999, is also in silver and is worth about $15,000. It's also two feet tall, weighs around 30 pounds, with 30 gold-plated flags – one for each Major League team – grouped around a silver baseball that contains 24-karat gold vermeil stitches.
NBA Trophy – $13,500
Basketball's biggest prize is named after the man who headed the league for eight years (and also the Democratic National Committee, when its offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington were ransacked that fateful night in 1972): the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy.
The current silver trophy (also by Tiffany), designed in 1984, weighs 14.5 pounds with a 24-karat gold overlay. It also stands two feet tall (a bit shorter than players who battle for it), with a nine-inch basketball going through the hoop. Valued at $13,500, the trophy is remade every year, with the winning team keeping that year's version to display in their home court.
Stanley Cup – $650,000 Plus Travel Costs
In 1892, the then-governor-general of Canada, Lord Stanley, bought a punch bowl from a London silversmith for what amounted to about $48.67 (just more than $1,100 today) to reward the top hockey club in Canada. The Cup initially stood about seven inches tall and about a foot in diameter.
Now, of course, the Cup doesn't look anything like that itty-bitty Belle Epoque punch bowl. Over the years, tiered rings were added to the bottom of the bowl, then long narrow bands, then uneven bands. Because Lord Stanley's mug is one of the few professional sports trophies where the name of every member of the winning team is inscribed (the Grey Cup is another), Hockey Hall of Fame Curator Phil Pritchard says engraving costs roughly $1,000 annually. Bands are often retired to make room for new champions.
At nearly three feet high and weighing more than 34 pounds, the current Cup dwarfs the others. Despite its size, it still does a lot of traveling: Each member of the winning team, coaching, training and office staff gets possession of the mug for 24 hours during the offseason. Pritchard says the cost of arranging that depends on where the Cup is going and coming from, but he estimates "around $2,000, which includes transportation, accommodations, etc."
Like other sports, Pritchard also says the players each receive a Stanley Cup ring (which he estimates to cost $30,000 per player) and a mini-version of the Cup, which costs about $1,000 to $1,500 each.
The Bottom Line
What this story cannot convey, of course, is the emotional cost of the tireless effort and commitment that players have to expend to win these trophies. Love of the sport and winning the big prize is something you can't place a dollar value on.