LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers unveiled their latest NBA championship banner Tuesday night on the west wall of Staples Center.
Nine players remaining from last season's triumph over the Boston Celtics, along with Phil Jackson and his coaching staff, received their rings before the season opener against Houston.
|The Lakers walk into the season as the reigning champs, receiving their rings Tuesday. (Getty Images)|
"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.
The uniqueness of it has to do with a piece of leather from the game ball from Game 7 of the finals, which was attached to the base of each one. The front features a circumference of 16 oversized white diamonds representing the franchise's 16 NBA titles, and two championship trophies made of 16k gold. On one side is a three-dimensional likeness of the player receiving 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."
After Lamar Odom received his ring, all eyes were fixed on enigmatic forward Ron Artest, who four weeks ago made the stunning announcement that he would raffle off his first championship ring on Christmas Day when the two-time defending champs host LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.
Artest will be putting his expensive bauble up for bids to raise money for mental health counseling in schools, something he received for a few months at age 13 before the funding for that program dried up. He's already turned down flat offers ranging from $50,000 and $100,000 for the ring he finally won.
"I'm really happy for him," 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."
A mere 131 days after winning the title, the Lakers opened their season against 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.
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).