The S. Rae Hickok Professional Athlete of the Year award, known as the Hickok Belt, is a trophy that originally was awarded for 27 years (from 1950 to 1976) to the top professional athlete of the year in the United States, and was re-established in 2012. It was created by Ray and Alan Hickok in honor of their father, Stephen Rae Hickok, who had died unexpectedly in 1945 and was the founder of the Hickok Manufacturing Company of Rochester, New York, which made belts—hence the choice of a belt as a trophy.
The trophy was an alligator-skin belt with a solid-gold buckle, an encrusted 4-carat (800 mg) diamond, and 26 gem chips. It was valued at over $10,000 in the currency of the time (US$90,000 to $140,000 in 2011 dollars) and its presentation was a major event in sporting news of the day.
For the first 21 years, from 1950 to 1970, it was awarded in Rochester at the annual Rochester Press-Radio Club dinner (an event that continues today). After the Hickok company was taken over by the Tandy Corporation, the award was presented in larger cities such as Chicago or New York. The last award was made in 1976.
In 2010, Tony Liccione, the president of the Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame, announced plans to reinstate the Hickok Belt starting in 2012. The mold used for the belt starting in 1951 (the 1950 belt spelled Mr. Hickok's name as "Ray") has been found and will likely be used again. Liccione plans to invite the 18 surviving belt winners (except O.J. Simpson, who is incarcerated in Nevada) to a banquet in September 2011, followed by the first new presentation of the belt in 2012.
Since being re-established in 2012, the belt has been awarded based on a vote by the National Sports Media Association. A 20-member panel chooses one athlete each month, with the twelve monthly winners eligible for the belt award at the end of the calendar year. Of the belts that have been awarded since 2012, two have been presented to Lebron James.