The reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers received their rings during a ceremony on Tuesday night marking the start of the season. The rings paid tribute to basketball icon Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash earlier this year.
After introductions from Lakers' families and frontline workers, the remaining players and staff from the title-winning roster collected the new bling with each players' individual number and name emblazoned on it. The rings also contained some additional, sentimental details that will endear them to Bryant's fans.
A Black Mamba snake – a reptile Bryant identified with – encircles every player's uniform number and the ring has a first-of-its kind detachable top that reveals another nod to the former NBA superstar.
"We created a removable top that exposes the rafters that are up in Staples Center with [jerseys of] all of the retired Laker greats, with a special emphasis put on Kobe's No. 8 and No. 24 jersey, and it's set on a snakeskin-texture background," jeweler Jason Arasheben, known as "Jason of Beverly Hills," told ESPN.
On Wednesday, Lakers star LeBron James shared an image of Bryant looking at James as he received the ring and wrote a message dedicated to him: "What I felt last night when I grabbed that ring from the case. Love and miss you my brother!"
According to ESPN, the "L" on the ring's face has 17 purple amethyst stones, signifying the team's 17th championship in franchise history. The Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in November for the latest title, leaving Arasheben, who designed the team's championship rings in 2009 and 2010, to create the design in four weeks, instead of the usual three to four months. It also has the team's motto from last year, "Leave a Legacy," in James' handwriting.
During the ring ceremony, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged the absence of fans and pledged to make it up to them when the pandemic ends.
The Lakers lost their first game against cross-town rival the Los Angeles Clippers, 116-109. The NBA starts the season without the bubble, allowing teams to host games at their home arenas.