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The Sad, Lonely And Ridiculously Valuable Story Of A Championship Ring

By 01.13.14

Ray Lewis Ring

Last June, I read the story of former University of Kentucky basketball player Walter McCarty’s 1996 NCAA Championship ring being for sale and I thought, “Big deal, athletes sell their rings all the time.” But McCarty’s situation was a little more interesting than most others, because he had just received that ring last February, and he was so excited about reuniting with his former teammates and celebrating their incredible accomplishment in front of an arena packed with Kentucky fans. Why on Earth would a guy who was so pumped about this gift be so willing to turn around and sell it for $5,000 on eBay?

It turned out that McCarty had nothing to do with it. In fact, he was pretty upset that someone had taken the ring from him and posted it on eBay, so he was doing whatever he could to actually get the ring back, because he cherished it far beyond the four digits that a family member was trying to get for it. But not all of these stories end like McCarty’s. Sometimes it really is just about the extra cash. Just ask former Baltimore Ravens running back Damien Berry.

Damien Berry

Beginning today, fans have the opportunity to bid on more than a dozen NFL Championship rings that have been sold by players over the years, and Berry’s is a little more unique than most. His was just earned last year for Super Bowl XLVII, which makes it one of the most “exciting” opportunities for a fan to get his hands on something that the team just won. Most Ravens players – Ray Lewis especially, as you can see in the banner – are still wearing their rings with pride, despite the fact that the team missed this year’s playoffs. “F*ck it,” I’m sure they’re saying, because they’re still the champs until another team’s players hoist that Lombardi Trophy in the air next month.

But not Berry. Having never actually played a down for the Ravens, Berry’s time with the champs was spent on the practice squad two years ago and the IR during the team’s Super Bowl run. So for him, it would seem, there’s no association between 243 round cut diamonds and an overwhelming sense of pride. It’s possibly just a matter of cash, which leaves the pride to whoever pays a ridiculous amount for the ring that a bunch of other guys busted their asses to win. Except Berry denies that theory and also claims that a friend took the ring and sold it to Goldin Auction without his permission. It’s a standard excuse for what has become a sad pastime.

At some point in the last few years, I started my own sports memorabilia collection for the sake of just having some things that I can look at and think, “Maybe someday I’ll tell my son about how Blake Bortles won the Fiesta Bowl when nobody thought he could.” Or maybe I’ll sell it all to pay for my daughter’s college so she won’t spend her 20s and 30s with a crippling fear inspired by five figures of student loan debt. Either way, I’ve grown fond of looking for new items to add to my collection, and any time that I’ve seen a championship ring for sale, I’ve thought, “Wouldn’t that be fun to own?”

Except what I’ve also learned is that every ring has its story, and I’ve grown increasingly fascinated reading about these stories as more and more rings become available – just look at the rings that have been available through SportsRings.net – as I wonder whether or not a guy will come to my door one day and tell me I need to hand over his ring. In case you were also looking into buying some former athlete’s championship ring as an investment, here are some stories that might make you think twice.

(Images via Getty)


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