If you weren't able to get your bid for the Los Angeles Clippers in under the wire on Wednesday, and still have plenty of scratch burning a hole in your pocket that you'd like to use to buy something NBA-related, I've got some good news for you — you can still cop the 14-carat gold, diamond-topped NBA championship ring that Hall of Fame power forward Elvin Hayes won as a member of the Washington Bullets during the 1977-78 season.
The 12-time All-Star, who shined for the San Diego/Houston Rockets and Bullets from the late '60s through the early '80s, was inducted in Springfield, Mass., in 1990. He'd made five straight trips to the playoffs with the Bullets after being traded from Houston in the summer of 1972, but had come up short of the ultimate goal each time ... until, that is, the '77-'78 campaign. He teamed with the likes of sweet-shooting defensive "greyhound" Bobby Dandridge, glass-eating outlet-thrower Wes Unseld, future Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and solid swingman Kevin Grevey to form a hard-nosed two-way team that upset the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference finals to land in the title round against the Seattle SuperSonics.
When they met with adversity, head coach Dick Motta was fond of reminding his charges, and the media that covered them, "The opera isn't over 'til the fat lady sings." Despite blowing a 19-point lead in Game 1 and falling down 3-2 down to the Sonics, the Bullets stormed back to win Games 6 and 7 and earn the franchise's first (and only) NBA title.
"They can say whatever they want," Hayes said after Game 7, in which he scored 12 points before fouling out. "But they gotta say one thing: E's a world champion. He wears the ring."
And now, it seems, so can you ... provided you're willing to pony up at least $100,000 for it.
Nate D. Sanders Auctions in Los Angeles is accepting bids for Hayes' '77-'78 championship ring — which the auction house says it "obtained directly from Hayes," with a certificate of authenticity to match — as part of an auction ending Thursday. As of 1:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, no bids had come in for the ring, which features an engraving of Hayes' signature on the interior and a special "THE FAT LADY SINGS" inscription on one side. There have, however, been a pair of bids for Hayes' 1990 Hall of Fame ring, which opened at $45,000; no such luck on Hayes' Hall of Fame plaque, though.
Hayes isn't the only Hall of Fame forward putting memorabilia up for bid in the auction.
Bernard King waited nearly 20 years after the end of his playing career to earn induction into the Hall of Fame. Evidently, the legendary Brooklyn-born scorer — who made four All-Star Games and four All-NBA teams, led the league in scoring during the 1984-85 season, and ranks 42nd in career points scored in NBA history — cares a lot more about the recognition associated with enshrinement than the hardware that came with it, as he's sold "his Hall of Fame induction ring and Hall of Fame trophy" for bidding, according to Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News:
The two items were initially set for bidding starting at $40,000 for the ring and $32,500 for the trophy. But King chose to sell the items to the auction house rather than put them up for consignment, where he would have waited 45 days to receive payment, Sanders said.
The ring and trophy were purchased from King directly by the firm for an undisclosed sum, Sanders said. The sale will be conducted through mail order and online auction. It was the first time Sanders had ever dealt with King and he worked with him directly on the deal.
“That means he wants the money up front,” Sanders said in a phone interview on Tuesday of why King didn’t put the items up for bid. “He’s taking the gamble away and getting paid up front. There’s a gamble that maybe he did the right thing and maybe it doesn’t sell. There’s also the gamble that it could have sold for more and if he had been patient for a few months he could have made more money.”
Instead he was paid last month, Sanders said.
“He didn’t have the patience to wait those few months,” he said.
It remains unclear why the two legends are auctioning off their treasures — King didn't respond to the Daily News' requests for comment, and Hayes has been mum on the matter since news of his championship ring going up for bid began to circulate earlier this month.
Some athletes, like Metta World Peace, Darko Milicic, former Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Scott Williamson and the late, great Bill Sharman, auction rings off for charity. Others, like former New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra, fellow hoop Hall of Famer Julius Erving and former NBA All-Star Antoine Walker, have had to auction off their rings to defray court costs. And some greats, like Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas and Elgin Baylor, claim to be more than satisfied by the memories of their exploits and achievements enough to avoid sentimental attachment to the myriad mementos taking up space in their attics and drawing rooms. Here's hoping Bernard and Elvin are more in the latter group than in the second one.
Whatever the circumstances surrounding the submission of these items to auction, it's always a bit sad when such hallmarks of history head off to the open market rather than, say, the Hall of Fame in which their sellers have been enshrined, or the home arenas of the teams for whom they starred. (It'd be neat to see Big E's ring in a display case at Verizon Center alongside the apparently-not-missing-at-all 1978 championship trophy, wouldn't it?) Still, though, it's the prerogative of the folks who own them to determine what they do with them; if they want to sell 'em off, for one reason or another, that's their business. Weep not for the memories, and if you're a well-heeled super fan, get to bidding.
Other hoop-related items available include a signed letter from basketball inventor James Naismith to his daughter and a custom-made championship ring given to women's basketball legend Teresa Edwards commemorating the U.S. women's national basketball team's gold medal win at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where Edwards served as chef de mission for Team USA. There's a boatload of other stuff up for auction, too; you can check out the full list here.
Hat-tip to Triangle Offense.
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