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Lakers debut NBA championship rings, won't unveil banner at Staples Center without fans

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The Los Angeles Lakers handed out their NBA championship rings ahead of their season opener on Tuesday night, but the iconic title banner unveiling will have to wait.

Instead of the classic reveal on Tuesday — the Lakers kicked off the shortened 2020-21 season against the Clippers at the Staples Center — the Lakers are planning to wait to do so until fans are allowed back into the arena.

Instead, a black cloak will be hanging over the banner at the Staples Center with the words, “Stay Tuned, Lakers Family” on it.

“We won’t be unveiling a banner because we want to wait for the fans on that,” Lakers president of business operations Tim Harris said Tuesday, via ESPN. “When you win a championship, the championship has a lot of quote-unquote owners. A championship belongs to the team, it belongs to the players, it belongs to the fans.

“And then the stuff that comes with a championship, the assets that come with a championship, it’s kind of like the ownership group are the caretakers of the trophy. And the rings when you win a championship, those belong to the players. And the banner when you win a championship belongs to the fans. That’s kind of how I look at this.”

Lakers players and coaches still got their championship rings on Tuesday night, though they were actually presented virtually by various special guests — including both select frontline workers around the Los Angeles area and family members.

LeBron James even had students from his I Promise School in Ohio help his family present his ring.

Though they didn’t have rings, Clippers players weren’t left without a gift of their own.

When will Lakers, Clippers be allowed to welcome fans back?

Though Harris is planning to wait for fans to return before unveiling the banner, it may be awhile before they can actually do so.

Public gatherings in Los Angeles County are currently banned under COVID-19 restrictions, and the pandemic continues to surge both in Southern California and across the country. The state recorded more than 43,000 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, according to The New York Times. The county has run out of ICU beds, and daily hospitalization rates are rising off the charts, per the Los Angeles Times.

So while it may take awhile, waiting is an important part of the process for Harris — even if Tuesday night’s ceremony looked a little strange.

“We started thinking, ‘How are we going to do this? How are we going to pull this event off when we have no fans?’ When you’re doing a television show,” Harris said, via ESPN.

“For the banner, we’re missing part of that. We’re missing a component to it, and that is the people who are a big part of winning this, and that’s the fans. So we’ll wait.”

Jeanie Buss and the Los Angeles Lakers after they won the 2020 NBA Finals
Lakers owners Jeanie Buss speaks surrounded by players after the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA Finals on Oct. 11, 2020. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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