Storm ringing in the season in style

Is it about the ring? Or is it about the bling?

The Seattle Storm will get both Saturday when, minutes before they open their WNBA season against the Phoenix Mercury, they will receive their diamond-laden championship rings for winning the 2010 WNBA title.

Male athletes talk all the time about "playing for the ring," and when those rings are delivered to the victors, they are always big and gaudy and, well, exceedingly bling-y.

Is it different for women? Is less ever more when it comes to marking the accomplishment of a title?

Storm guard Sue Bird -- who has won two Olympic gold medals, two NCAA titles and two WNBA titles -- said no.

"Rings are synonymous with winning," Bird said. "It is the one thing that represents success."

The Storm's 2010 ring was designed by a Seattle company, Blue Nile, an online jeweler that specializes in diamond wedding bands. Diane Irvine, Blue Nile's CEO, said she jumped at the chance to design the company's first championship ring for a sports team.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Storm players will celebrate their WNBA title again today -- this time with added sparkle.

"This should be a natural for us," Irvine said. "This is our first championship ring, but I felt like this was something we could be really great at. I don't think this is going to be a ring that people are just going to put away."

Storm president Karen Bryant said there was a female-centric approach to the design.

"It's big. If you are wearing it and you put your hand on the table, it's going to call attention to itself," Bryant said. "But in its own way, it's very feminine and classic."

The elements of the ring include the team's 28-6 record, the WNBA championship trophy and a face that's shaped like an arena, with clusters of diamonds representing one of the most passionate fan bases in the league.

"When I saw the image of the ring, it took my breath away," Bryant said. "I think it captured everything we wanted."

The Storm have four players on the roster who already own championship rings. Their input was important to the process.

Swin Cash, who won a title at UConn with Bird and in Detroit, said this ring is "sleek."

"But with a lot of diamonds," Cash said.

Bird said she is less a ring-wearer than a keepsake person. "I've never worn my rings; it's something I'd rather keep someplace safe," she said. "I usually only pull them out if someone asks to see them."

Cash said she feels the same way. But she said she knows many male athletes in particular who feel differently.

"I don't know if it's an ego thing or what, but with women, I don't see it as much," Cash said. "I think there's a time and place. I've seen guys working out at the gym with their [championship] rings on."

The players will receive their rings in a pregame ceremony that will include a red carpet entrance.

"For me the real test is, are the players going to love it," Bryant said. "Championship rings are universal, regardless of sport, regardless of gender. It's a symbol that you were the best."

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