Lakers receive championship rings
LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant said that the Los Angeles Lakers' win over the rival Boston Celtics in June was the most satisfying of all of his five championships. The ring he received Tuesday night was fitting of such an accomplishment.
"We were successful in revolutionizing championship ring history," said Jason Arasheben, owner of Jason of Beverly Hills, the jeweler commissioned with producing the estimated 60 rings that were handed out to the nine remaining Lakers players from last season, plus coaches, front office members, owners and support staff before the team opened up the 2010-11 regular season with a 112-110 win over the Houston Rockets.
What makes the rings unique is that one of the basketballs used during Game 7 of the NBA Finals was cut up and portions of the leather was used on the underside of the ring.
Arasheben, a personal friend of Joey and Jesse Buss -- sons of owner Dr. Jerry Buss -- won the bid to design the Lakers' 2009 championship ring, and he enhanced the 2010 design.
"We put even more diamonds, over three karats," Arasheben said. The ring also features 16 oversized diamonds to represent the 16 titles in franchise history.
Lakers senior vice president of business operations Tim Harris said the two requirements for the ring were that it had to be unmistakable in representing the Lakers brand and it had to be big.
"It has to be big, it has to be large," Harris said of the design instructions.
Each player's ring also features a 3-dimensional sculpture of his face, an upgrade from the laser-cut faces on the 2009 rings.
It is the 13th ring in Lakers head coach Phil Jackson's collection as a coach and a player, and he said that sometimes rings become so intricate that they're "unwearable."
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"But, seeing as Dr. Buss designed this one, it's terrific," Jackson said.
Once Jackson was presented with his 11th championship ring as an NBA head coach and fifth with Los Angeles by commissioner David Stern and Lakers executive VP of business operations Jeanie Buss, Bryant and Derek Fisher followed their teammates one by one to center court to receive their fifth each -- matching the totals of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson.
"We couldn't have done it without you," Bryant told the roaring sellout crowd. "But none of this would have been possible without the greatest team owner in team sports. So please give it up for Jerry Buss."
The cost of each ring was not divulged, but the effort that went into designing and creating them suggests that its exorbitant value could probably eclipse any before it.
Abdul-Jabbar, who attended the ceremony, acknowledged that the size and price of his rings has been dwarfed by the ones of this generation.
"I think that's just a function of the fact that the game has become so popular and it's become a major part of what people see as entertainment. So everything around it has gotten more extravagant -- and in some cases, outlandish," the Hall of Famer and NBA career scoring champ said with a smile. "It was nothing like this. It was low key, not on national TV or anything. We were just sharing it with the Laker fans who were there. Now it's very much a Hollywood production."
Harris said that each player will be presented with one ring for himself and another ring for his spouse or significant other.
When asked if the team would provide an additional ring for Ron Artest after he raffles his off to raise money for mental health awareness, Harris said, "We'll deal with that on the back end."
"I'm really happy for [Artest]," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "He's been through a heck of a lot the last few years and he's had to keep some discipline in him. And coming in here with the world champs, he was able to fit in and get a ring."
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A mere 131 days after winning the title, the Lakers opened their season by pulling out a win versus Houston -- the club Artest spent the 2008-09 season with before signing a five-year, $33.5 million deal with the same team that eliminated the Rockets from the playoffs in a chippy seven-game series.
Sometimes, all this ring-ceremony hoopla can become a distraction. In their 10 previous banner unveilings in Los Angeles, the Lakers lost four times -- twice during the "Showtime" era, when Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar were the marquee names.
In 1985, Cleveland beat Pat Riley's squad that had begun the defense of its title with a 4-0 road trip. In 1982, Golden State administered a 132-117 pounding at the Forum -- the worst loss by a defending NBA champion on banner night until 2006, when the Riley-coached Heat got trounced 108-66 by Chicago.
"It was an emotional night for them, so we knew that if we jumped on them early, we'd have a shot to steal this one," said Rockets forward Shane Battier. "But they showed a lot of resolve. They're the team to beat, and the road to the championship still goes through them."
The Rockets stayed in their dressing room while the ceremony was going on, just like the Bulls did before facing Miami.
"There's no reason to be out there, unless we get raffle tickets from Ron tonight," Adelman joked. "I thought he may give me a few, but he didn't offer any."
The Lakers eventually will get rings to four players no longer in purple and gold -- Jordan Farmar (New Jersey), Josh Powell (Atlanta), D.J. Mbenga (New Orleans) and Adam Morrison (waived by Washington).
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.