Life Stories: Counting Diamonds for an NBA Star

One thing that I decided to try out for 2012 is to use the “Life Story” category to recount some mildly amusing vignettes from my life.  Here’s one story I found myself telling a few weeks ago.

When I was in college, I worked 20-25 hours a week for a small, high end jewelry store in downtown Chicago.  Our clients included bankers, traders and a few celebrities like R. Kelly (before he went to jail!) and Chris Gardner (Pursuit of Happyness).

My primary responsibility at the store was silver engraving (I have a few stories about that as well!) as well as watch band and battery replacement.  But every once in awhile, I was asked to do something singularly nerve-wracking, (like drive a $100,000 Mercedes around the block for 45 minutes).

One day, a newly drafted NBA player came into the store and presented the owner with a rather large piece of jewelry, which was hanging on a white gold chain around his neck. He said he had paid a certain amount for it and wanted to know if we could appraise it on the spot.

The piece actually turned out to be a custom sculpture of the player’s name and jersey number, along with a basketball going through a hoop.  It probably was about 6 inches wide and 10 inches long.

And it was covered with diamonds.

Much to my surprise, I was handed the bejeweled piece and asked to count the number of diamonds.

Trying not to let my panic show, I quickly reproduced a sketch of the piece and then began to count the number of diamonds on each part – the hoop, the basketball and each letter of his name.  It was a painstaking process and took about 15 minutes – all while the NBA rookie watched and made small talk with my boss.

After what seemed like an eternity, I came to a conclusion: there were 1,170 diamonds embedded in the piece.

My employer did some calculations and then gave the player this appraisal:

“For the piece, you’re probably looking at around $30,000.  The gold chain is another $10,000, so together this piece is worth about $40,000.”

“Yep, that’s about what I paid,” the player said.  He thanked my employer (not me the lowly diamond counter), hung the $40,000 emblem around his neck, and walked out of the store.

This anecdote might explain why 60% of NBA players are broke 5 years after they retire.

Question: What would you do if you got a fat NBA contract?