MIAMI -- Pat Riley's right hand was bare as he walked onto
the court Tuesday night, his 1987 Los Angeles Lakers championship
ring put away for safekeeping.
Minutes later, he had a new favorite piece of jewelry.
The Miami Heat completed one last order of business before
starting the defense of their NBA title, receiving their
championship rings in an elaborate pregame ceremony before opening
the new season against the Chicago Bulls.
"Tonight is a great night, just a great night because it's
something we value, and we've looked forward to for a long time,"
Well, it was supposed to be a great night -- the Heat lost
"Last year," Heat center Shaquille O'Neal said after the game
when asked what he thought of the ring, "is over now. It's time to
go get another one."
The organization is giving out 415 rings to employees, Riley
said, but the 15 players' rings are obviously the most spectacular
of the bunch.
Shortly after getting his long-awaited first ring, Heat center
Alonzo Mourning decided the time was right for a bold prediction.
"As we embark on this new season, with your continued support
and with the help of the '15 Strong' that you see over there,"
Mourning said, pointing to his teammates as he addressed the
sellout crowd in the Heat's arena Tuesday night, "we will do it
A diamond-crusted "World" is across the top and "Champions"
around the bottom, with a replica of the NBA championship trophy in
the middle. On one side is each player's last name, with the words
"15 Strong" -- the credo Riley came up last season -- underneath,
along with the phrase "Faith 2006."
On the opposite side is the Heat logo, and there are white
jewels in nearly every possible spot on the massive piece of
"A lot of ice," Heat guard and NBA finals MVP Dwyane Wade
said, "is nice."
NBA commissioner David Stern, who hands out championship rings
each year, said he sees the jewelry getting bigger with each new
"I'm not sure they can get more bigger and more elaborate,"
Stern said. "At some point, we hit the ceiling."
Riley, owner Micky Arison and 10 other members of the team's
basketball operations and coaching staff received their rings
first, before a video montage of highlights from the postseason was
For Riley, it was ring No. 7. For Arison, it was ring No. 1.
"It's bigger. It's nicer," Riley said, when asked to compare
the new ring to his others. "And I want to thank Micky for it."
Once the staff rings were issued, amid fireworks and blasts of
flame, it was time for players to finally get their first look at
Mourning pumped his fists high when he was introduced, as did
Miami native Udonis Haslem. Neither could stop smiling -- a rare
sight for both on the court. Later, Wade accepted his as the crowd
greeted him with an "M-V-P" chant.
O'Neal somehow managed to keep a stoic expression on
his face -- that is, until he embraced Riley and saw the coach
already was wearing his ring.
Then the Heat players pointed fingers skyward, as white
streamers fell and the championship banner was raised to the
"It's more than a ring, because it took a lot of grinding,
putting in hours in the weight room, tough times, everything all
rolled into one," Heat forward Dorell Wright said shortly before
the ceremony. "We earned it. The season was up and down, but we