Even by South Florida bling standards, the Miami Heat’s championship ring ceremony Tuesday night was over the top. Fans took a breather from political ads and Hurricane Sandy coverage to focus on two things they care deeply about: their beloved basketball team and gaudy jewelry.
The highly anticipated rings were manufactured in Montreal by the Jostens company and driven down to Miami last week, at which point they were stored in the Heat vault. They were wheeled onto center court Tuesday surrounded by a half-dozen Miami police officers.
It’s no wonder that level of security was needed.
Each player ring is made of 14K white and yellow gold and features 219 diamonds (10.8 total carats), 46 custom-cut princess-cut diamonds, and three Onyx stones. The ring weighs a quarter of a pound. The top features the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy in 14K gold with a round half-carat diamond in the shape of a basketball. The Heat logo is set with 31 diamonds, and the words “World’’ and “Champions’’ are framed by 46 diamonds.
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One side has two championship trophies representing the 2006 and 2012 titles. The word “Family’’ is inscribed below. The player’s name is on the other side, and underneath is the “All In’’ team trophy commemorating the team’s motto last season. A circle with the 15 players’ numbers surrounds the trophy. Inside is the inscription: “Forged in the fire between a hammer and an anvil,’’ and the date 6-21-12.
Made to fit gigantic NBA hands, the rings are so huge they are about the same size as the $25 replica paperweights being sold in the arena souvenir shops — and just as heavy.
AmericanAirlines Arena was filled to the rafters with fans giddy to witness the distribution of the rings and the raising of the championship banner before Tuesday’s season-opener against the Boston Celtics. All the fans were given flashing wristbands which flashed in red and white throughout the ceremony. When the players emerged from the tunnel is custom championship warmup suits, the place went berserk.
“Let’s Go Heat! Let’s Go Heat!’’ they chanted. The loudest cheers were showered on LeBron James, who finally earned the ring he so craved. “M-V-P! M-V-P!’’ the crowd shouted. And then, the obligatory “We are the Champions’’ anthem.
The only boos were for NBA commissioner David Stern, who botched a salute to victims of Hurricane Sandy when he said: “Before we begin, I know that everyone here and around America watching has, in their thoughts and their abiding concerns, those who were affected by the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.’’
Out in the arena concourses, fans were distracted from the nation’s worries. They lined up for a chance to buy championship ring merchandise, which ranged from $10 plastic replica rings to the $5,500 Ultimate Fan Ring made of 14K gold and featuring most of the elements on the real rings, including a few diamonds. They also had pendants, earrings, bracelets, key rings, and cuff links for sale.
Myron Shapiro of Coral Gables opted for the $3,900 10K white gold Ultimate Fan Ring. He has been a season-ticket holder for 25 years, and wanted a special memento for all those nights he sat in Section 119, Row 12.
“I’ve been here since the first game, so this championship is special to me,’’ Shapiro said. “I didn’t buy one in ’06, and I regretted it.’’
A few feet away, Josh Frank of North Miami Beach decided on the $110 cufflinks.
“I’m not going to wear a ring because it’s not like I played in the games or am part of the team, but the cuff links is a more subtle way to commemorate the championship,’’ Frank said. He also planned to buy a few $10 plastic rings for his children.
In addition to the unveiling of the rings, Tuesday served as the launch of several new arena amenities.
Not to be outdone by the Marlins Park’s Clevelander bar and Sun Life Stadium’s Club LIV, the Heat upped its hip quotient with the opening of Hyde lounge, a 5,000 square-foot nightclub inside the arena that includes multiple bars and a private dining room.
The arena’s Dewar’s Clubhouse got a facelift, two Rosa Mexicano carts were added to the concourse, two full-size bars were added to the 400 Level, and a gluten free cart added vegetarian and vegan menu options.
Fans seemed to be enjoying the festive atmosphere, as were the players and coaches.
“There has been so much buildup,’’ Coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game. “We’ve talked about how we want to honor the ceremony, but we know the main thing is the game and we do not want to ruin it for the fans. This is the first time we will really have an opportunity to see our fans officially, with a full house. It brings us back to how difficult it was for us to be able to get over that hump and do this as an organization. We wanted to be able to share that with our fans.’’
The last time the Heat held a ring ceremony, in 2006, the game ended badly. The Heat lost 108-66 to the Chicago Bulls. It was the worst opening loss ever for a reigning NBA champion. Tuesday night, the Heat players vowed to send fans home happy. At the very least, many of them went home shinier.