Sad, Crazy and Funny Stories About NBA Finals Rings
Get into a spirited discussion with a fellow NBA aficionado, and sooner or later the conversation will wind its way to that great delineator between legends and stars, the good and the truly great.
Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant? Kevin Garnett or Karl Malone? Isiah Thomas or Chris Paul? Once all the stats and stories are exhausted, ringz is the only signifier to which everyone is prepared to heed.
For years, we thought the value of NBA championship rings lay in their ability to broker debate. And, you know, the fact that they’re made of gold and loaded with diamonds.
As it turns out, the stories behind these finger-sized bling bombs can be just as fascinating as the legends who’ve worn them.
What follows are nine of the strangest, saddest and funniest stories involving NBA Finals rings that you'll ever hear. At least until we find out Chris Andersen sold his for a human-sized birdhouse or something.
Get ready to never look at your jewelry box the same way again.
Who's the Bosh?
According to ESPN.com’s Michael Wallace, Miami Heat president Pat Riley often brings out his bling to attract marquee free agents.
When attempting to lure All-Star forward Chris Bosh in 2010, Riles handed Bosh a ring from the 2006 title-winning Heat team, saying, "You give me that back when you come here and win yours."
Bosh took it to heart. And he has continued taking it to heart ever since, apparently, because he has yet to give the ring back. Bosh did say he would give it back "after this year," per Wallace.
You know, once he gets back from his post-Finals trip to Saturn.
Elgin-Able for a Ring
Man, poor Elgin Baylor. Not only did his Los Angeles Lakers rattle off a still-NBA record 33 consecutive wins after the Hall of Fame small forward called it quits early in the 1971-72 season, his longtime team ended up winning it all the following spring.
This after Baylor and the Lakers wound up on the short side of eight Finals over a 13-year stretch.
In a classy move, the Lakers gave Baylor a ring anyway. Which makes sense: Coincidental win streak notwithstanding, it’s hard to imagine that Lakers team—loaded as it was with the likes of Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Gail Goodrich—wouldn’t have won anyway.
Rarely have the contents of a Lakers legend's closet been so publicly unearthed. Never has the foundation of basketball's greatest franchise been so available for purchase.
It's strange, a yard sale of items spread out across the lawn by a player who spent his career with an organization that keeps everything within the family. It's almost unsettling, this dignified former Laker placing his finest moments up for bid.
For his part, though, Baylor claims he didn’t do it for the money.
I'm constantly getting calls from people interested in my stuff, and I finally thought, it's time. I've had some of these things for 60 years. It's time to share some of them with the fans who have been so wonderful to me...You're thinking there's something financial going on here, but it's not true. I have no financial problems at all. None of that. Seriously.
Seeing as how he put in 23 years as general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers, a job we assume paid fairly well, he's probably telling the truth.
For those who'd kvetch and wonder why an NBA legend would just part with so many great memories, bear in mind that, for these guys, the real memories happened on the court. What looks to us like priceless sports gold can, for many former players, just be, well, stuff.
Count Da Ringz…No Really, Make Sure They’re All There
From the man who indirectly inspired #CountDaRingz comes this sordid tale of parental betrayal.
During the summer of 2013, Kobe Bryant’s parents attempted to auction off a bevy of Bean’s most prized memorabilia, including a direct duplicate of Kobe’s 2000 championship ring.
A brief legal battle ensued. Luckily, the whole thing was hashed out well before what would’ve been the most awkward Thanksgiving in world history.
Here’s ESPN’s Darren Rovell with some of the details:
The items, consigned by his parents, turned into a legal battle when Bryant found out they were selling the nearly 100 items that he said were not theirs to sell. Documents provided to the auction company by the Bryant's had said otherwise. Eventually, a settlement was reached that resulted in about 90 percent of the items being pulled out of the auction.
All’s well that ends well, I suppose. But honestly, when your son is Kobe Bryant—a guy who will probably be a billionaire before all’s said and done—is this kind of sneakery really necessary?
Why don’t you just, I don’t know, slap him upside the head? A cool million or two is bound to fall out of his ears.
Metta World Peace Prize
NBA championship rings: turning Metta World Peace into a saint and Kobe Bryant’s family into a band of crazy people since 2011.
Well before his teammate’s ridiculous travails, Metta World Peace took the occasion of his first ring—won with the Lakers in 2010—to channel auction proceeds to a bevy of charities in and around his native Queens, New York (per Ariel Sandler of Business Insider).
We offer this anecdote not just as a happy glimpse into the sweet side of World Peace—although this is very much that—but rather as an interlude in what’s about to become a whirlwind of weirdness.
Forget gold. You’ll never look at onion rings the same way again.
I’m starting to spot a trend with the Lakers. Their rings are such drama queens.
After a pair of rings disappeared from L.A.’s training center in December 2013, it didn’t take long for local police to find the culprit: Eddie Monterroso, one of the facility’s security guards.
From NBA.com: “Police say they searched Monterroso's Inglewood home and found the rings from the Lakers' 2009 and 2010 championship seasons. Police could not say who the rings belonged to.”
You have to wonder how police were even tipped off on this to begin with. Although if you were caught that easily, don’t blame us for thinking you punched through the rings’ glass encasing, put them on and just went back to work, whistling and twirling your billy club like nothing ever happened.
Three's a Crime
For all the flippancy with which so many of this slideshow’s subjects have treated their NBA bullion, it’s especially sad when someone as steadfastly devoted—to the game and to his faith—as A.C. Green winds up a victim.
According to Larry Altman of the Daily Breeze, the former Lakers staple had all three of his title rings stolen by burglars during a 2013 home break-in.
Each gold ring, encrusted with diamonds and bearing the name and No. 45 jersey number of the Showtime-era forward, is estimated to be worth $25,000.
"To him, priceless," Palos Verdes Estates police Sgt. Steve Barber said. "They are worth a lot of money, especially to somebody who is a collector. It's going to be really difficult for somebody to pawn it off."
That last line raises a good point: Short of selling them to someone who has no intention of ever turning it around for a profit, what could possibly be gained by stealing a professional athlete’s championship rings?
You can’t sell them on eBay, after all—100 percent chance you get caught. You can’t brag to your friends about them.
Anyway, people are dumb. It’s just sad when someone as good-hearted and beloved as A.C. Green has to suffer for it.
Elvin Hayes Championship Ring, Anybody?...Anybody?
That’s all that really needs to be said about former Washington Bullets legend Elvin Hayes’ ill-fated attempt to find a buyer for his 1978 championship ring.
That’s right: Sometimes not even the name of an NBA Hall of Famer—one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, no less—is enough to invite a bite.
From The Score’s Blake Murphy:
That year, he and the Washington Bullets took the title home, with Hayes averaging 21.8 points and a playoff-high 13.3 rebounds. Hayes was 32 at the time, so it was likely the highlight of his career.
But for whatever reason—financial, the fading of a once-great memory—Hayes saw fit to auction off his championship ring.
Unfortunately, the auction closed on Thursday with no bids. Perhaps the $100,000 minimum bid was too rich, or nobody cares that much about a team from the 70s, or a bit of both.
Seeing as how this just went down a few days ago, here’s hoping the publicity from Hayes’ bling not selling ends up helping it sell, if that makes sense. It probably doesn't.
More Like Freddie FROWN
If “Downtown” Freddie Brown ever made a sitcom, this would’ve been the pilot.
Back in 2011, the onetime sharpshooting guard for the 1979 title-winning Seattle SuperSonics was surprised to find that his wife—who handles the two’s charitable initiatives—had auctioned off the resulting ring.
From The Seattle Times’ Percy Allen:
I just found out about what my wife was doing the other day. She handles a lot of charity stuff. She was spring cleaning. She found a whole bunch of stuff from 30, 40 and 50 years ago and donated a bunch of stuff and is giving things to charity. That's all I know. I support her. Whatever she's doing, I'm OK with it.
Sure, that’s what he says. And given that the ring wound up going for north of $100,000, Brown would probably say that now.
But let’s be honest, that probably wasn’t Brown’s immediate reaction. Instead, here's how it likely went down.
Linda Brown: “Sweetie, I hope you don’t mind, but I just so happened to stumble across perhaps the greatest single totem to your NBA legacy and decided to sell it.”
Freddie Brown: *eyebrows fall off, eyes rocket out of the sockets and nearly come detached from the veins, blood pours out of nose, hair sparks alight like a gasoline fire, mouth opens to unleash army of tiny Freddie Browns riding flaming broomsticks*
Bad Beach Day
After Freddie Brown finishes channeling an Itchy & Scratchy spot, maybe he can give Mike Uporsky a hug.
Back in 2013, Uporsky, a former assistant with the Sonics, was walking his dog in Redondo Beach, California, when his 1979 championship ring apparently slipped off his finger and onto the beach, per CBS Los Angeles (h/t to Nicole Mooradian of Redondo Beach Patch).
According to the initial report, a collector told Uporsky the ring “could be worth more than $100,000.”
I mean…so many questions.
First of all, if walking around with $100,000 in your wallet seems like a bad idea (which it is), then wearing a $100,000 ring while walking your dog on an endless expanse of feet-deep sand is probably a bad idea as well.
I don’t know how they made them back in 1979, but you can barely fit today’s rings in a washing machine, let alone around a finger on a hand holding a leash that’s attached to a moving animal.
In all seriousness, I hope Mr. Uporsky ended up finding it. I’m just saying…there’s a reason you always see people walking around the beach with high-tech metal-detectors. You know?