The Naismith Awards were founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club to recognize accomplished athletes, coaches, officials and contributors to high school and college basketball. Named in honor of Dr. James Naismith, the creator of the game of basketball, the first Naismith trophy was awarded in 1969 to UCLA’s Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The trophy was sculpted by Marty C. Dawe of Atlanta and has become among the most prestigious national honors awarded each year to top basketball players in the nation. The Women’s Player of the Year Award was first given to Anne Donovan of Old Dominion University in 1983.
Each year the club’s board publishes the “Naismith Watch” list that is made up of the top 50 players to watch in men’s and women’s college basketball. The organization also releases a list of 30 mid-season Naismith candidates. At the end of the season the Naismith Trophy is awarded to the player of the year in men’s and women’s college basketball. A national voting academy of leading basketball coaches, administrators and journalists narrows the group down to four finalists based on player performance throughout the season. The final four Naismith finalists will make up the ballot and the player of the year is voted on by the group.
In 1982 the Atlanta Tipoff Club established the Outstanding Contribution Award to honor men and women who have had a positive impact on the game of basketball.
The Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year Award and the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award were established in 1987 and were originally given to the coaches of the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I Tournament Champions. In 1989, the governing board changed the selection criteria to the voting process used today in which the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Board of Selectors first votes to compile a top 25 list of coaches for each award. Then, through additional votes, the list is narrowed down to four and finally, the national winner.
Also in 1987, to honor the nation’s best boy’s and girl’s high school basketball players, the Naismith Trophy Boy’s High School Player of the Year and the Naismith Trophy Girl’s High School Player of the Year were established. The board compiles a top 10 list of players from across the country for both awards. The winners are then selected by board vote.
The Naismith High School Boy’s Coach of the Year and Girl’s Coach of the Year categories were added in 2008.
Winners are chosen for the following awards:
- Men’s and Women’s College Player of the Year
- Men’s and Women’s College Coach of the Year
- Men’s and Women’s College Official of the Year (Lifetime Achievement)
- Men’s and Women’s Outstanding Contributor to Basketball (Lifetime Achievement) delivered by UPS
- National Boy’s and Girl’s High School Player of the Year Presented by Hilton Worldwide
- National Boy’s and Girl’s High School Coach of the Year