It’s October, the 5th 1955, Brooklyn Dodgers left-handed pitcher Johnny Podres is driving through the streets of New York in his new Chevrolet Corvette, received as a prize for being named MVP of the MLB World Series and bringing the first title to the franchise that would move to Los Angeles three years later. The car is beautiful,cream-colored on the outside, red leather on the inside, with 195 hp pushing that prodigy up to 220 mph. This is the first time a sportsman has received such an award for the merits of a single match. The idea of giving a car to the MVP of the World Series came from Sport magazine, which together with General Motors decided to give a bunch of keys to the "Top Performer" of that Game 7.
The custom of giving cars to sportsmen expanded to American football as well, when again Sport magazine began awarding the MVP of the Super Bowl, that year won by the Baltimore Colts against the New York Giants, in what has been called "The Greatest Game Ever Played." Through the streets of Baltimore, Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas will drive a red Corvette. Thus began a tradition destined to last to this day.In later years both Dodge would sponsor the award, with the steering wheel of the Dodge Challenger ending up in the hands of Len Dawson in 1970 and that of the Dodge Charger in Miami, in the garage of Larry Csonka of the Dolphins, MVP of the 1973 Super Bowl.In the late 1970s Ford joined the scene, with the Thunderbird won by Randy White of the Dallas Cowboys in 1978 (destroyed after an accident with an animal near his farm) and the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, given by General Motors to Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers in '79.When Subaru in the mid-1980s began giving away its Subaru XT it did not take into account that such big, muscular athletes would not be too comfortable in a small coupe. Jerry Rice, a 1989 Super Bowl winner with the 49ers, then preferred to give it to his mother.
The tradition has continued in baseball, with Chevrolet sponsoring the award since 2005 and in recent years has awarded a Chevy Silverados (2018), a C8 Corvette to Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals (2019), and in the last year a Corvette Z06 to Jorge Soler of the Braves. A collector's item was the one won by Ben Zobrist of the Chicago cubs in 2017, who climbed into the seat of a Camaro SS, a special edition for the 50th anniversary of the Detroit automaker's model.
In the NBA, awarding the MVP with a sports car is a less conspicuous custom, aided by the difficulty of taking models directly to the parquet, which happens regularly in baseball and American football. However, Russell Westbrook chose to turn the spotlight on the award in the 2015-2016 biennium. After being named Most Valuable Player of the All Star Game, he chose to give his Kia to a single mother in Oklahoma City, and the following year to a needy family in Los Angeles. A nice gesture also made by Anthony Davis, who in his Pelicans days gave his award to a family in New Orleans.
The award has changed meaning considerably over the years, in the early days representing swag for professionals who did not yet earn amounts disproportionate to the value of a single car. Coming more and more to the present day, multimillion-dollar contracts mean that Chevrolets or Corvettes take on more of a symbolic value, capable, however, of perfectly framing the showmanship of the American sporting tradition. Sports and motorsports melt each other perfectly in the climax of the season, surrounded by the aura of epicness that the MVP gives off, with one place in history and another on a four-wheeler reflecting the flashes of the cameras.