If you’ve been on sports pages in the past sixth months, odds are you’ve seen a “mickey mouse ring” comment. For the uninitiated, a “mickey mouse ring” plays on the Lakers winning the title in the bubble in Orlando. Orlando, of course, being the home of Disney World, people were quick to make jokes about “LeMickey” (LeBron James) and “ADisney” (Anthony Davis). While there are some questions about the advantages and disadvantages teams had in the bubble, one thing is clear. The Lakers ring is well deserved. They were the best team in the playoffs last season.
The same is harder to say for whichever team ends up winning the title this season. Of the four teams left, every single one has some form of marred path to the Finals. Take the Suns, for example. In round one, they faced off against the defending champs, the Lakers. However, Lakers superstar Anthony Davis missed the fourth and fifth game of the series. Davis also only played five minutes in the Lakers’ game six loss. The Suns took all three of the aforementioned games to win the series, four games to two.
The Suns’ second round matchup against the Nuggets also had a key focal point missing. The Nuggets’ Jamal Murray sat out of the series due to an ACL tear suffered in March. The Suns won that series in four games. Fast-forward to the present, and the Suns have just eliminated the Clippers in six games in the Conference Finals. The Clippers are also missing a star in Kawhi Leonard.
With the Suns now advancing to the finals, we’re going to be seeing a finals matchup in which the two finalists had a much easier path than anticipated. However, to say that the ring is “unearned” or a “mickey mouse ring” is unfair to every single player on the winning team. Sure, the path was easier, but the players can only beat what’s in front of them.
Going back through the past few years, you can make the argument for nearly every ring being an “unearned ring.” The 2020 Lakers won in the bubble – which people discredit them for. The 2019 Raptors beat the Warriors, who suffered major injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. The 2018 Warriors won the finals, but may not have even made it if Chris Paul didn’t injure his hamstring in the conference finals. The 2017 Warriors are the same story, but Kawhi Leonard’s ankle subs in for Chris Paul’s hamstring. 2016 Cavs and their 3-1 comeback? Probably never happens if Draymond doesn’t get suspended in game five. And the 2015 Warriors beat the Cavaliers without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love.
Going back through each year of the playoffs, anybody can come up with a million reasons to discredit the winning team. But to do so is just plain unfair to the players. So please, if the Suns win the finals, or the Bucks, or the Hawks, please refrain from referring to it as a mickey mouse ring. A ring is earned, no matter what.