Inside the making of the Nuggets’ NBA championship rings

Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone thought he couldn’t top the two NBA championship rings his late father Brendan won with the Detroit Pistons in 1989 and 1990.

Malone would look at his father’s memorabilia from his days as Chuck Daley’s assistant coach and the architect of the Bad Boys’ „Jordan Rules” defense and think they were quality.

„My dad got two of them from Detroit, so this is the ring I envisioned,” Malone said last week following the Nuggets’ preseason game against the LA Clippers. „But it’s like a regular donkey school ring 1698189761.”

Malone would love nothing more than to show off his new championship ring to his father, whom he considers his best friend. Brendan died on October 10 at the age of 88.

“My father and I are the same father-son [coaching] „They have two world championship rings in NBA history,” Malone said. „It means a lot to me and my family.”

Mallon said he keeps his father’s rings „in his underwear drawer” instead of a safety deposit box.

„So that’s where mine will be,” Malone told reporters in Denver on Monday.

But Malone knows that the rings, presented before Tuesday’s season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers to commemorate Denver’s first NBA title, will be hard to keep tucked away in a drawer.

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„What they’re doing now is these things are opening up and they’re shooting beams out of them,” Malone said.

Jason Arasheben, CEO of Los Angeles-based jeweler Jason of Beverly Hills, didn’t spring for the beams, but confirmed that the Nuggets’ new jewelry stands out from the crowd. As for other championship teams — the Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Vegas Golden Knights and Las Vegas Aces — Arasheben knew he had to design something different for Denver.

„From what I heard through the grapevine,” the Nuggets guard said Kentavius ​​Caldwell-PopeThe holder of the 2020 Lakers championship ring told ESPN last week during a postseason game that „it’s better than any ring he’s had.”

Caldwell-Pope will not disappoint. The emerald-shaped ring features 16 carats of diamonds representing Denver’s 16 postseason victories, the Larry O’Brien Trophy on the front, the diamond-engraved „Nuggets” and a silhouette of Denver’s hilltop and Pickaxe logo.

But the Nuggets ring comes with two unique features. It features a lever at the top that changes from 1967, the year the Nuggets originated in the ABA, to 2023, while changing the color of the background from white diamonds to blue sapphires. A retractable box on the left side of the ring displays the 2023 Nuggets championship banner raised in Tuesday’s ceremony.

„It’s definitely one of my favorites, if not my favorite,” Arasheben told ESPN. “They were the first to come up with the concept of a twist-off top, whether it was an inner bowl. [of SoFi Stadium for the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI ring] Or with retired jerseys [the Lakers’ 2020 title ring].

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„However [the Nuggets’ ring features] Never done before in jewelry or championship rings.”

In addition to the white and yellow diamonds and blue sapphires, there are 89 red rubies, honoring the number of points Denver’s defense held in the title-clinching Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat.

Josh Kroenke, Nuggets president and governor, was involved in the design of the rings from start to finish. His father, Stan, has some experience in the industry as president of Groenke Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Nuggets, Rams and Colorado Avalanche. The Rams and Avalanche both won championships in 2022.

„Fortunately the last two seasons we’ve been really blessed and very fortunate,” Josh Kroenke told ESPN. „I asked [Arasheben] What kind of special features can be put from nuggets. I don’t want a screw-off top. I don’t want anything done before.

„We’re one of four franchises that have merged with the NBA from the ABA, so we have that date to acknowledge our ABA past, and I wanted to make sure that we agreed to that. And all the players and coaches, no. They have to have the banner with them wherever they go with that ring. , I think it’s a very special and unique feature.”

After Aaron Gordon He celebrated the Nuggets’ championship-clinching victory over Miami by walking the streets of Denver in his basketball shorts. Arasheben, who attended the game, treated Gordon as a client, matching Nuggets players to their ring sizes at the party and asking for input on features for the ring.

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With Kroenke’s blessing, Arasheben traveled to summer league in Las Vegas in July to confer again with Nuggets players including Caldwell-Pope and Gordon. Deandre Jordan And Jeff Green. Arasheben said Green, now with the Houston Rockets, was the most vocal with ideas for the design after playing 15 seasons before winning a title.

„We set a standard for how big we can go in these rings,” Arasheben said. „Bigger than this, it’s about the size of a plate. They want it bigger, more shiny. The first thing players always tell me is, 'Make sure the s— is shiny.’

„But what I’ve noticed is that they’re now considering the actual design, aside from the flash. And the Nuggets this year were big on having a lot of color and not just being overwhelmed by white diamonds. .”

None of them knew about two special features. „I believe it’s big and rocky,” Gordon told ESPN last week following the Nuggets’ preseason game with the Clippers.

The ultimate MVP Nikola Jokic, meanwhile, now has to track down two rings he doesn’t want to lose. Don’t expect Jokic to tie this ring to the laces of his shoes every game like he does with his wedding band.

„It would certainly be a health hazard to anyone if it jumped on his shoes,” Kroenke said. „This ring is too big and too heavy.”

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