The fight for the $ 150,000 and 800 gemstone ring

American sport celebrates its successes with iconic champion rings, a tradition that has evolved greatly in recent decades.

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 in 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 a coach, two as a player) ...

It is a custom that starts from the basic intention of rewarding the individuals of a winning organization with a memory of success: if there is only one great trophy for the team, there had to be a way to also decorate its members. The Montreal Hockey Club commissioned the first in 1893, something like 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) that wears the rings, also a norm in many college competitions.

Baseball (MLB) saw the first rings in 1922, when the Giants made them to celebrate their World Series triumph 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 complete series winners and to those who take specially marked races (Indy 500, Daytona 500…). College basketball distributes them to the Final Four winners but also to the other three participating teams. In all competitions you can also give champion conference rings, finalists ... although they certainly do not have the same value and meaning as the true great ring, the champion ring. Rings are also distributed at emblematic moments such as Hall of Fame entries, All Star participations…

There is no hard and fast rule on how many rings the champion receives and to whom they are given. They are of course received by players, members of the coaching staff, preparations, staff and senior managers. But normally the hand is opened to the vast majority of the franchise workers and they are also symbolically given 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 usually also 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. Afterwards, the League has allowed each champion to design their own. The competition itself takes care of the expenses, which is not always the case. In other cases, it is the franchises (their owners) who plow. So is the NHL and the MLB. In the NFL the League puts up to $ 5,000 for rings. In their mammoth franchises, they distribute up to 150 for each champion.

So now rings are made very freely, although their base is always gold (yellow white) and precious stones. There are two classic manufacturers in American professional sports, LG Balfour (in Massachusetts) and Jostens (Minneapolis), although Tiffany broke through a few years ago and the more recent Baron Championship Rings has 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 he also took care of the Raptors in 2019, a record for the largest in professional sports. The Canadian franchise, to celebrate its first title, created up to five tiers of rings: in the highest category were the twenty that were taken by the main players and coaches and that cost more than 100,000 euros each. At the last level, just $ 13 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 delivering rings to players.

Manufacturers reserve the right to sell replica rings or other pieces of jewelry (earrings, bracelets ...) commemorating a title. The official rings are more and more personalized and with more data and symbols, but they always bear the name and logo of the franchise, the title number that was won, the competition ... The first ones were relatively basic, with hardly any diamond or another. gemstone. But especially since the 90s, it has evolved towards more size, more weight, more jewels and more references in designs that are already true variegated and frankly ostentatious trinkets. Now the rings can carry more than 100 diamonds (in their entirety, not just on the wide front) that already carry the price of 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 ever used in American sport, topping 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 eliminatory rounds: Magic, Sixers, Bucks, Warriors) to reach NBA glory for the first time along with the numbers of all the players. who were in the squad that was proclaimed champion in the last official game at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Also appear the skyline of the city of Toronto with the iconic CN tower, six diamonds representing 'The 6ix', colloquial name of the city, and the word "North" (north) in reference to "We The North", the Canadian team motto during the title race. The most expensive ones, like the one worn by the singer Drake (a great follower of the franchise) exceeded $ 150,000.

The Lakers, the last champion, made after last season a ring that remembered legends of the franchise, especially the late Kobe Bryant. To do this, they went above those $ 150,000 per unit and created the most expensive rings in NBA history. Designed by famous jeweler Jason Arasheben, they featured 804 gemstones 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 95-day stay of the team in the Florida bubble, from which they came out champion: for them each ring He wore 95 carats of amethyst and nearly 16 (the 16 wins for that ring) of white and yellow diamonds. 17 pieces of purple amethyst recalled, of course, the 17 titles of the franchise.

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