The thrill of victory and agony of defeat are on full display in championship games like the Super Bowl, World Series, and NBA Finals. For the winners, the reward is not just a title but often championship rings – a lasting symbol of their excellence.

But does the losing team also get to take home rings as second-place finishers?

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Generally, no, the losing team in major championships does not get rings. Only the winners receive rings to commemorate their victory.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll take a deeper look at ring traditions across different sports, examine the rare cases where runners-up did get rings, and consider whether this practice could be more widespread.

Traditional Championship Ring Customs

Championship rings are coveted symbols of victory and achievement in sports. They are often adorned with diamonds, precious metals, and the team’s logo, representing the pinnacle of athletic success. However, there has always been a lingering question among fans and sports enthusiasts: Does the losing team also receive a ring?

Let’s explore the traditional customs of championship rings in some of the most prestigious sports events.

Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is the grandest stage in American football, where the top teams from the National Football League (NFL) compete for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy. When it comes to championship rings, it is customary for both the winning team and the losing team to receive them.

However, the rings awarded to the losing team are often less extravagant than those of the winners.

For example, in Super Bowl XLIX, the New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks to become the champions. The Patriots received stunning diamond-encrusted rings, while the Seahawks’ rings were slightly less extravagant, but still a meaningful recognition of their Super Bowl appearance and accomplishment.

World Series

In Major League Baseball (MLB), the World Series is the pinnacle of the sport, where the champions of the American League and the National League face off. Similar to the Super Bowl, both the winning team and the losing team receive championship rings.

For instance, in the 2019 World Series, the Washington Nationals emerged victorious over the Houston Astros. The Nationals’ players and staff were presented with stunning rings, symbolizing their historic championship.

The Astros, despite falling short, were also honored with rings to commemorate their journey to the World Series.

NBA Finals

In the National Basketball Association (NBA), the championship rings hold a special significance. They are not only a symbol of victory but also a representation of the team’s journey throughout the season.

The winning team’s rings are often extravagant and meticulously designed, while the rings for the losing team are more modest.

For example, in the 2020 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers emerged as the champions, defeating the Miami Heat. The Lakers’ championship rings were a stunning masterpiece, featuring diamonds and the team’s logo.

The Heat, despite falling short in the finals, were still commemorated with rings that recognized their impressive playoff run.

Exceptions Where Losers Got Rings

2017 Falcons

In most professional sports championships, only the winning team receives championship rings. However, there have been a few exceptions where the losing team has also been awarded rings. One notable example is from the 2017 Super Bowl where the Atlanta Falcons, despite their loss to the New England Patriots, received commemorative rings to recognize their remarkable season.

The Falcons had an incredible run that year, reaching the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season with an impressive 11-5 record. Led by quarterback Matt Ryan and an explosive offense, they defeated the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers in the playoffs to secure their spot in the championship game.

Although they ultimately fell short in a thrilling overtime defeat, the Falcons’ exceptional performance throughout the season and playoffs was acknowledged by the team’s management. They decided to honor the players and coaching staff with rings as a symbol of their achievement and to recognize their contributions to the team’s success.

This gesture not only demonstrated the organization’s appreciation for the team’s efforts but also served as a reminder of their remarkable journey and the determination they displayed throughout the season.

Other Examples

While the 2017 Falcons are a notable example, there have been a few other instances where losing teams received rings in various championships. These exceptions are typically rare and occur when a team’s performance or achievements are deemed significant enough to warrant recognition, despite not winning the championship.

For example, in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers received rings in 2008 after losing to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. The Lakers had an outstanding season and reached the Finals, making it a memorable year for their franchise.

In another instance, the New York Mets, despite losing to the Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 World Series, received rings to commemorate their remarkable season. The Mets had a Cinderella story, going from a last-place team the previous year to winning the National League pennant and making it to the World Series.

These exceptions highlight the recognition given to teams that have achieved significant milestones or had exceptional performances, even if they didn’t ultimately win the championship. It serves as a way to honor their accomplishments and provide a lasting symbol of their journey.

The Case For Loser’s Rings

Recognizing the Achievement

While it may seem counterintuitive to reward the losing team, there are valid arguments for providing them with rings in championship games like the Super Bowl. One of the main reasons is to recognize the tremendous effort and skill that these athletes demonstrated throughout the season.

Making it to the championship game is no small feat, and the losing team should be acknowledged for their hard work and dedication.

Furthermore, loser’s rings can serve as a symbol of the team’s journey and perseverance. These rings can remind the players of the lessons they learned, the obstacles they overcame, and the valuable experiences gained.

It can be a source of motivation for future seasons and a way to honor the team’s contributions to the sport.

Additionally, recognizing the losing team with rings can help promote sportsmanship and unity within the league. It sends a message that even in defeat, every team’s efforts are valued and respected. This can foster a sense of camaraderie among athletes and encourage them to continue striving for excellence.

Criticisms and Counterpoints

Despite the arguments in favor of loser’s rings, there are also criticisms that deserve consideration. Some argue that loser’s rings diminish the significance of the championship rings awarded to the winning team.

They believe that these rings should be reserved solely for the champions, as a way to celebrate their victory and distinguish them from the rest.

Another criticism is the potential cost associated with producing loser’s rings. Championship rings are often expensive and are typically funded by the winning team or the league. Providing rings to both the winning and losing teams could result in a significant financial burden.

These funds could be allocated to other areas such as player salaries, stadium improvements, or community outreach programs.

On the other hand, proponents of loser’s rings argue that the cost should not be the sole determining factor. They believe that the recognition and symbolism behind these rings outweigh the monetary implications.

Additionally, some leagues have found creative solutions to address this concern, such as partnering with sponsors or using less expensive materials for the loser’s rings.


While championship rings remain reserved for the winners, the select cases where runners-up have also received rings reflect the immense skill and effort it takes just to make it to the final game. As championship performances become more competitive, the debate over rings for the losing team seems likely to intensify.

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