The ring has not been the thing for Jim Chones.

One of those pretentious, pricey symbols of ultimate success and ridiculous excess, which has come to validate a professional athlete's career, is stashed somewhere in the apartment he shares with wife Elores in Beachwood, Ohio.

Don't ask Chones, a Racine native who earned that championship ring as a forward on the 1979-80 "Showtime" Los Angeles Lakers, where it is, let alone if he ever flashes it just for kicks. The truth is, he once misplaced it while making a rest room stop on Interstate 94 during a trip to Chicago and it barely crossed his mind that it was missing until it turned up one day.

"About four years later, I was switching clothes from winter to summer," Chones said. "When I threw one shirt on the floor, it went ‘boomp!' and I said, ‘What the heck was that?'

"And then I looked in the shirt pocket and there it was."

It's unfortunate how we paint our heroes with a broad brush when assessing their careers, smearing who they were with our misguided value system. Fran Tarkenton, Ted Williams, Karl Malone, Ernie Banks and Charles Barkley are just a few of the all-time greats whose status has been diminished in the eyes of so many because one of their fingers was never weighted down by an enormous cluster of diamonds set in gold.

And then there's Chones, who owns one of those coveted rings, yet relegates it to what he considers to be its rightful place.

"It's in a drawer," he said. "I never wear it."

Instead, Chones insists on the life he has lived representing his championship ring. He'll be happy to regale you with stories of what it was like playing with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but please don't define him by how so many of us choose to remember him - as a former 6-foot-11 basketball star.

That's a mere fraction of who Chones truly is.

One diamond in Chones' conceptual championship ring represents his family, which includes Elores, his wife of 36 years, and his five children, each of whom played Division I college basketball and earned degrees. His triplet sons, Kameron, Kendall and Kyle, each earned Ivy League degrees. Eldest Kareeda earned a degree at Marquette and works for the Milwaukee Bucks and youngest daughter Kaayla earned a degree at North Carolina State and was the 13th pick in the 2004 WNBA draft.

"My wife deserves the credit for that," he said of the success their children have realized.

Another diamond represents his mind, which he cultivated long after he became the second basketball player in NCAA history to leave school early to pursue a professional career - which he did as an All-American at Marquette in 1972.

Instead of being content to live a life of leisure from the fortune he earned as a basketball player, Chones returned to Marquette and earned a degree in philosophy in 1998.

"To this day, I read every day, I study every day, there's a couple people I meet once or twice a week and we go over things philosophically and I write," the 61-year-old Chones said.

Another diamond represents Chones' work ethic. If not for a broken right foot suffered during the 1974-75 season, his third as a professional, Chones would not have missed a game through the first nine years of his 10-year career.

"Oh, I took playing every game for granted," he said. "The greatest thing I ever did was be able to play and have my mother see me play and be able to buy her a home."

And perhaps the last diamond represents the life he has experienced. And that's why a ring which would probably fetch a hefty price on eBay may never again see the light of day.

"To me, it's not the ring," he said. "It was the experience, like having the chance to play with who I think is one of the five greatest players to ever play - Magic Johnson."

For kids who are coming of age today, Chones is likely a relic of the past whom their elders might have mentioned to them in passing.

But in an era in which style has obliterated substance and immediate gratification is expected, Chones at his backboard-clearing best has never stood taller than he does today.

Peter Jackel is a reporter for The Journal Times. You may contact Peter at (262) 631-1703 or by email at

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