TORONTO – “Can I say this politely? They’re gonna be like, ‘What the [expletive]?’”
That was Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry in a conference call Monday explaining how he felt people would respond to the championship ring he had a role in designing.
So then, did you “WTF!?” when you saw what the first championship ring in Raptors franchise history looked like?
Lowry, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and Baron Championship Rings – the company that crafted the ring – would certainly hope you did.
Highlighted by a prominent, shield-like, diamond-encrusted face with the ever-familiar upwards-pointing chevron with “NORTH” spelled in it – a nod to the jerseys the Raptors were wearing when they won the title – this championship ring goes bigger than just about any other before it.
Each ring features more than 640 diamonds. Due to the ring’s design, where on the right side a player’s name and jersey number is prominently emblazoned, the number can increase – Jeremy Lin’s ring, for example, has over 660 diamonds.
The front-facing centrepiece of the ring has 74 diamonds, representing the 58 wins the Raptors had in the regular season and the 16 they needed in the post-season to be crowned champions.
Of these 74 diamonds on the face of the ring, the one that stands out the most is a massive 1.25-carat diamond – the largest single diamond used in any championship ring ever, according to Baron and MLSE – that represents the top of the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The other diamonds in the face make up parts of the Toronto skyline with elements like the CN Tower and Scotiabank Arena.
These features were important determining factors in MLSE ultimately deciding to go with Baron as their championship ring jeweller, over two other pitches, because at the heart of the design was the narrative of the Raptors’ title run.
“At the end of when we saw the three choices, this ring best spoke to our championship,” said Shannon Hosford, MLSE’s chief marketing officer Friday when Sportsnet got to take a sneak peek at the ring’s design. “We had a lot of diversity of thought around the table in terms of representing different parts of the Raptors organization and for everyone to unanimously look at that ring and say, ‘There’s no question, it’s that ring’ just said we found it.”
Among those who unanimously agreed on Baron’s design was Lowry, who was asked to be part of the ring-creation process and act as a voice for the rest of the players in its design.
“We created a final prototype and two meetings prior to that Kyle was looking at the different renditions in our conference call at the table and he said, ‘I want to be loud,’ and we listened to what he said and came up with this piece,” said Peter Kanis, president of Baron Rings. “The first thing he said was ‘Wow!’ And I looked in his eyes and he looked like a kid in a candy store.”
Added Lowry on his first reaction to the ring: “Shock and kind of in awe. I think that was the reaction that I got, and I think that’s going to be the main reaction where everyone is going to be in shock and that’s why I was happy about the ring and the design.”
At first glance “loud” is a good way to describe the Raptors’ championship ring. With its sheer size and endless array of diamonds embedded onto a band of 14-karat yellow gold, it’ll immediately strike you as quite gaudy.
But to look only at the surface won’t paint the whole picture of the ring.
For example, along the top trim of it you’ll notice numbers, each of which represent a player who helped bring the chip to Toronto.
Separating each of these numbers are 16 rubies, which represent the 16 playoff wins it took to get there, while simultaneously calling back to the fact that the Raptors aren’t just Toronto’s team, they’re Canada’s team. This is an element that’s reinforced by looking underneath the face of the ring to reveal a maple leaf with a ruby placed in the middle of it.
Flanking the maple leaf are the series scores from the four playoff rounds as if to say those playoff victories truly were for the whole of the country.
Lastly, on the underside of the ring, each player and staffer got to add a personalized engraving to make it truly their own.
These were all elements that Lowry, and everyone else involved in the design, wanted in the ring, no matter what.
“This is not a ring that you wear every day,” said Lowry. “This is a statement piece. You don’t wear it every day, you put it up and you wear it once in a while. So I wanted the size to be as big as every other ring there is, just because we wanted to show the details.”
The details of these championship rings were able to be shared by Baron and the Raptors Tuesday night when they gave away replica championship rings to fans in attendance for the Raptors’ home opener at Scotiabank Arena.
Additionally, fans in Jurassic Park were treated to one of the “two-five” hands that were on display at Nuit Blanche wearing a gigantic replica of the championship ring.
And for fans at home, you’ll be able to get your hands on a championship ring replica, along with other commemorative items, by visiting RaptorsChampionshipRing.com for a limited time.
The Raptors and MLSE went all out for this ring as evidenced by the work they put into it and that it seems they want everyone to share a part of it.
But if nothing else impresses you about this ring, please let it be Lowry and the team worked hard to take this ring to Patrick McCaw levels.
“It’s a very spectacular ring. It’s something that you earn, and it took a long time to get,” said Lowry. “[Unless you’re] Patrick McCaw. He has three now. So we just wanted our ring to be better than his other two.”