The NBA champion lifts the Larry O’Brien trophy, the treasure that awaits after the tremendous battles of the playoffs but that does not concentrate on itself the iconographic load of other symbols of the winner: the flag on the roof of the pavilion, the ring on the finger of the protagonists. Thus, by rings, successes are measured: Bill Russell’s eleven, Michael Jordan’s six in six Finals, Phil Jackson’s thirteen (eleven as coach, two as player). And already nine from Steve Kerr, one of his pupils: five as a player and four as a coach after tying up this 2022 with Golden State Warriorsthe fourth in eight seasons for the Bay team.
It is a custom that stems from the basic intention of rewarding the individuals of a winning organization with a souvenir of success: if there is only one big trophy for the team, there had to be a way to decorate its members as well. The Montreal Hockey Club commissioned the first ones in 1893, something akin to wedding rings with two crossed hockey sticks on the front. But the NHL didn’t introduce them as an annual tradition until the 1960s. It is one of the four major professional leagues (along with MLB, NFL and NBA) to use the rings, also a norm in many collegiate competitions.
Baseball (MLB) saw the first rings in 1922, when the Giants made them to celebrate their World Series win against the Yankees. They won a year later, and created wristwatches for their players. In 1927, the Yankees themselves signed up for the rings and from 1932 the MLB began to distribute them among the winners. In NASCAR, for example, rings are given both to the winners of complete series and to those who win special races (Indy 500, Daytona 500…). College basketball distributes them to the winners of the Final Four but also to the other three participating teams. In all competitions you can also give Conference champion rings, finalists… although of course they do not have the same value and meaning as the true great ring, that of champion. Rings are also distributed at emblematic moments such as admissions to the Hall of Fame, participation in All Star…
There is no strict rule on how many rings the champion receives and to whom they are given. They are certainly received by players, members of the coaching staff, preparations, staff and main managers. But normally the hand is opened to the vast majority of the franchise’s workers and they are also usually given symbolically to team legends. In addition, within the squad they are taken by active players during the playoffs but also by those injured, and they are also usually offered to those who participated in the season at some point, even if they were later cut or transferred.
In the NBA, from 1969 to 1983 the rings were standardized. Later, the League has allowed each champion to design their own. The competition itself takes care of the expenses, something that does not always happen. In other cases, it is the franchises (their owners) who apoquinan. So is the NHL and the MLB. In the NFL, the League puts up to $5,000 per ring. In their mammoth franchises, up to 150 are distributed for each champion.
So now the rings are made very freely, though its base is always gold (white yellow) and precious stones. There are two classic manufacturers in American professional sports, LG Balfour (Massachusetts) and Jostens (Minneapolis), although Tiffany made a big break a few years ago and the more recent Baron Championship Rings have gained a lot of ground, especially in the NBA. She was in charge of the 2016 Cavs rings, then the heaviest in history: each one weighed 165 grams. And she also took care of those of the Raptors in 2019, a record for the greatest in professional sports. The Canadian franchise, to celebrate its first title, created up to five levels of rings: in the highest category were the twenty that the main players and coaches took and that cost more than 100,000 euros each. At the last level, just 13 dollars per unit, the 20,000 that were given to the fans who filled the pavilion in the first game of the following season (2019-20) when the ceremony of raising the flag and awarding rings to Players.
Manufacturers reserve the right to sell replicas of rings or other pieces of jewelry (earrings, bracelets…) commemorating a title. The official rings are increasingly personalized and with more data and symbols, but they always bear the name and logo of the franchise, the number of the title that was won, the competition… The first ones were relatively basic, with just a few diamonds or other gemstone. But especially since the 90’s it has evolved towards more size, more weight, more jewels and more references in designs that are already true motley and frankly ostentatious virguerías. Now the rings can carry more than 100 diamonds (throughout their length, not just on the wide front part) which already carry the price to several tens of thousands of euros.
For the aforementioned Raptors in 2019, for example, a total of 650 diamonds were used for each piece with one of 1.25 (6.90 mm), the largest that has been used in American sports, finishing off the representation of the Larry trophy O’Brien who takes the champion. The design also highlights 16 rubies that represent the games that the Raptors had to win during the playoffs (four playoffs: Magic, Sixers, Bucks, Warriors) to achieve glory in the NBA for the first time along with the numbers of all the players who were on the squad that was proclaimed champion in the last official match at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. The skyline of the city of Toronto also appears with the iconic CN tower, six diamonds representing ‘The 6ix’, the colloquial name of the city, and the word “North” (north) in reference to “We The North”, the motto of the Canadian team during the race for the title. The most expensive, like the one worn by the singer Drake (a great fan of the franchise) exceeded $150,000.
The Lakers, the champion in 2020, made a ring that season that remembered franchise legends, especially the late Kobe Bryant. For it, they went above those $150,000 per unit and created the most expensive rings in NBA history. Designed by the famous jeweler Jason Arasheben, they included 804 precious stones in each ring. They carried references to all the numbers withdrawn by the franchise, with special attention to the two of Kobe (8 and 24) and also to the team’s 95-day stay in the Florida bubble, from which they emerged champion: for them each ring She wore 95 carats of amethyst and almost 16 (all 16 wins towards that ring) of white and yellow diamonds. 17 pieces of purple amethyst were, of course, reminiscent of the 17 titles in the franchise.
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NBA rings: how much they are worth, what they are made of and which members of the winning team receive it