Lifestyle

Championship Diamonds, Part Two: The Beverly Hills Jeweller Icing Out the NBA

NBA jeweller Jason of Beverly Hills returns with more 24-carat tales. In part two, Jason takes Jimmy Ness through creating a ring for Kobe, meeting Michael Jackson and talking hoops with Drake. Keep reading for more jewels than a Gucci Mane video.

Jewellery is weighed by carat – it’s also weighted by memory. Take LaMelo’s new chain. Basketball’s most anticipated rookie celebrated draft day with a diamond “number one” necklace. For better or worse, Melo’s purchase is embedded with expectation. The item will represent failed potential or a showy pitstop on the path to glory. 

A lifelong hoops fan, Jason relishes these moments. He’s been commemorating player milestones for two decades. In 2016, the NBA asked him to surprise the late Kobe Bryant for his retirement. Jason crafted a set of rings lavish enough to impress someone worth $600 million. 

The dazzling gift, also given to Vanessa, is set with five large diamonds – one for each championship. It holds an additional 20 rocks for every year in the league. Both sides contain Kobe’s jersey numbers and key career dates. The ring also contains snakeskin in tribute to his Black Mamba alias.

“It was amazing for me to have the opportunity to do that,” Jason reflects. “And it’s funny because I saw for the first time the video of him getting the ring just two days ago. I guess there is a video that exists out there on YouTube or somewhere that shows him opening the box, getting the ring and seeing his reaction. That was really cool.”  

Yes, the footage exists. Kobe seems genuinely taken by the gift. He gasps, and barely sits down before standing to tear the box open. Bryant recites “wow” several times as Lakers owner Jeanie Buss looks on, close to tears.

For Jason, this is what it’s all about; being intimate with the sport he grew up watching. JBH attends almost every Laker game. Pre-Covid, he flew cross-country to most playoff matches.  

“I was always around. When the Lakers beat the Celtics in game seven, in 2010, I was invited by [late owner]Dr. Buss, to actually get on the floor and celebrate with the team. And that was just an amazing feeling. I was really part of the whole experience. That was honestly a dream come true.” 

With friends in the Warriors and Lakers, Jason is personally invested. He understands the blood, sweat and pure struggle of building a championship dynasty. On top of that, imagine watching the playoffs with six figures in business riding on the outcome.

“I definitely have sat at the edge of my couch and been pretty nervous, he admits. 

“We’ve been in positions where we’ve watched the finals, knowing that we have a greater chance with one team rather than the other of getting the ring deal. When the Warriors were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Warriors were up three to one, it was pretty gut-wrenching to watch Cleveland win three straight games when I knew I had the Warriors deal in hand.”  

Kyrie and LeBron famously came back from their 3-1 deficit to trounce Golden State in 2016. When the Warriors rebounded the following year, and again in 2018, Jason was their chosen ring maker.

After The Dub’s latest triumph; Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Steph Curry wanted to make a statement. They wanted something new. Championship rings had an uninspiring tradition. A big golden ring with a big logo. Formulaic and shiny. Jason agreed. The only problem was the players couldn’t align on colours. Some wanted a white face, others wanted blue. 

Ambitiously, Jason chose to satisfy everyone. He surprised management with a changeable top. 

The sapphire side could be screwed off and switched for diamonds underneath. A first in the history of Finals rings, he made a dozen prototypes.  

“The ring was made up of a multitude of pieces that all have to be forged together in the perfect way in order to ensure that it would be a seamless flip and that it opens and closes seamlessly. So that was a really, really hard execution,” JBH admits.   

Jason also makes a women’s version, and a smaller pendant for those who don’t want to wear a treasure-chest on their finger. Some franchises give each player, staff and owner the same ring. In 2018, the Cavs spent over a million, even giving their janitor one.

Most teams like the Warriors order several hundred pieces in different tiers of value. Kevin Durant reportedly bought eight for friends and family.

Despite their enthusiasm, not all players keep track of their finery. Steph Curry dropped his ring after showing friends the flipping feature. Allen Iverson had $500k in iced-out chains stolen from a hotel earlier this year.  

“We’ve had so many horror stories of jewellery being lost or stolen. These players, you’ve got to remember, they’re constantly travelling from city to city during the season. I have players that are trusting hotel staff and leaving a hundred thousand dollar chains on the nightstand and not utilising the in-room safe, Jason says.  

“I’ve had players forget stuff, or when they’re travelling from city to city, leave stuff at home. You have players that have multiple homes, and they don’t know where they leave stuff and they have housekeepers stealing it. I’ve had players that have wives that have found out they weren’t being loyal and end up taking the ring and throwing it into the ocean, crazy stories like that.” 

Jason readily admits jewellery isn’t always practical. Trophy rings are usually stored in a glass case after the first week. Some players feel like a robbery target when they’re blinged up in the club. For others, that’s all part of the fun. 

Among Jason’s non-basketball pieces are Lil Jon’s blockbuster “Crunk Aint Dead” chain, 

a Stewie pendant for Justin Bieber and this author’s favourite – Ghostface’s gilded falcon

Another required mention is Michael Jackson’s family crest. Jason forged a diamond coat of arms for MJ after being introduced by a music producer. The late Moonwalker even invited him to the crib.

“He gave me a tour of the Neverland Ranch and we went everywhere and he did it himself. He was very gracious and very humble, and the nicest guy you ever want to meet. It was honestly a dream come true to be able to go there and see the way he lived. I mean, the guy had giraffes running around. It was insane.” 

Like a military pin, the emblem was set on a service ribbon. MJ requested several of the $500,000 pieces. Like only Jackson could, he nailed them to doors as a type of priceless home decor. 

Jason says meeting the world’s most famous man was the only time he’s been starstruck. 

“When everyone sees Michael Jackson, they see him in extravagant outfits or things like that. But can you imagine Michael Jackson in just a T-shirt and sweatpants? Yeah, you can’t. But when you see him like that, it changes your whole perspective. You know that he’s a regular guy with two arms and two legs just like me. The aura of being a super celebrity slowly fades away once you’re around that person. And so it was kind of odd to see him on his own, you know, at his own home and being just kind of leisurely, not ready to perform. Because every time we see him, usually it’s because he’s making an appearance. When you see him kind of in an everyday setting. It just kind of changes your perspective.”

Drake is another of JBH’s famed customers. The rapper’s requests include a 2Pac Jesus piece, a $400k iPhone cover, a ski-mask cupid chain and a 3D ASAP Yams, which he later gave to ASAP Rocky. 

“Drake is a huge NBA fan and not only NBA, but just basketball in general. Like this guy just bleeds basketball,” Jason attests. 

Last year, Drake asked for a custom ring to celebrate Toronto’s grand slam. It was one of one, just for him as a fan. He also hosts an amateur basketball league in his lavish home court.   

“Drake makes quite a big deal of it. I mean, he has a trophy. He also has championship rings. And so last year as well as this year, he’s done rings that actually have eclipsed some of the sizes of the NBA ones. We put all the details and tell the story of their season into the ring and put lots of diamonds all over. He definitely wanted to have an upscale ring that oftentimes looks better than an NBA ring.”

From anyone else that statement would be an exaggeration. But as you’ve gathered, Jason knows a thing or two about Finals trophies. 

He’s currently working on the 2020 NBA Championship Ring with Kanye’s former manager and streetwear vet, Don C. 

A fashion designer building an NBA ring? Looks like Jason’s going to heat things up again.