NBA Player from Every Team Who Deserves to Have His Jersey Retired
The San Antonio Spurs recently announced they'd be retiring Bruce Bowen's number. Bowen isn't the greatest offensive player in the history of the game, but he was a defensive stopper for a decade in the NBA. As such he helped the Spurs to win three titles.
It's a tribute to his importance they would retire his jersey.
It makes you wonder: Who else deserves to have their number retired that hasn't been? I looked through each franchise to determine who the most deserving unretired number is. For the most part, I went with players who are retired.
There are a few exceptions noted. Mostly the exceptions are for the franchises which are "young" and don't really have a worthwhile candidate that is retired. There is one other exception, which you'll know when you see.
Here are the retired numbers for every NBA franchise and the player most deserving whose number has not yet been honored.
Atlanta Hawks, Cliff Hagan
Retired Jerseys: Bob Pettit (9), Dominique Wilkins (21), Lou Hudson (23), Jason Collier (40)
Cliff Hagan was a wing, which is appropriate to a player for the Hawks who should have his number retired. Over the course of his career from 1957-1966 with the the St. Louis Hawks, he averaged 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
He was named to the All-Star game five times, and he helped the Hawks to win one championship. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.
Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge
Retired Jerseys: Robert Parish (00), Walter Brown (1), Red Auerbach (2), Dennis Johnson (3), Bill Russell (6), Jo Jo White (10), Bob Cousy (14), Tom Heinsohn (15), Tom Sanders (16), Jon Havlicek (17), Dave Cowens (18), Don Nelson (19), Bill Sharman (21) Ed McCauley (22), Frank Ramsey (23), Sam Jones (24), KC Jones (25), Cedric Maxwell (31), Kevin McHale (32), Larry Bird (33), Reggie Lewis (35), Johnny Most (MIC) and Jim Loscutoff (LOSCY)
As you can see, the Celtics are hardly stingy about retiring jersey numbers. Of course, when there's a history as rich as theirs, it comes with a lot of great players. It's hard to find a player that deserves his jersey to be retired that hasn't been, but if there is one it's Danny Ainge.
Ainge was with the Celtics from 1982-89 and was a key member of their championship teams in 1984 and 1986. He is 20th all-time in Celtic history in scoring and 10th all-time in assists.
Ainge, though, much like Bowen, was one of those players whose value didn't show up in the box score. He was guts of the Celtics team. In some ways he could be compared to Rajon Rondo in that he had a feistiness to him that annoyed every other team.
He once got into a fight with the 7'1" Tree Rollins, who had nine inches and 60 pounds on him after he called Rollins a "sissy." That's the kind of player Ainge was. He was a scrapper and an integral part of their championships in the '80s.
Charlotte Bobcats, Gerald Wallace
Retired Jerseys: None
The Bobcats are pretty much the opposite of the Boston Celtics. They are the least-storied franchise and the shortest lived. They really have no retired players who are deserving of having their jersey retired unless you want to reach deep, deep, deep into the desperate heap and make a case for Brevin Knight.
Nope. Right now the only plausible player is still playing, albeit for another team. Gerald Wallace is the franchise leader in win shares, points and steals and is second in assists and blocks.
He is the only Bobcat ever selected to an All-Star Game and he led the team to their only playoff appearance.
Chicago Bulls, Dennis Rodman and Horace Grant
Retired Jerseys: Jerry Sloan (4), Bob Love (10), Michael Jordan (23), Scottie Pippen (33), Jerry Krause (JK), Phil Jackson (PJ)
This is a tough one because the Bulls are pretty stingy about retiring jerseys. There are actually some other players such as Norm Van Lier, Chet Walker, Artis Gilmore and Toni Kukoc who should get some consideration, but the two big men helped the Bulls to their six championships.
If Michael was Batman and Scottie was Robin, then Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman both took a turn during each of the two three-peats as Alfred. Anyone to ever follow Batman knows that if it weren't for Alfred, Batman would be dead.
Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James
Retired Jerseys: Bingo Smith (7), Larry Nance (22), Mark Price (25), Austin Carr (34), Nate Thurmond (42), Brad Daugherty (43)
I know this is going to sound absolutely insane, but the Cleveland Cavaliers should just retire LeBron James' jersey. Before you reach through your computer screen and choke me, allow me to explain.
First, he has earned it. He's the team's all-time leader in points and win shares, is second in team history in assists and is fourth in rebounds. Yes LeBron James is the best Cleveland Cavalier in team history.
Furthermore, both financially and in terms of winning, he's done more for the team than any player in history. What he accomplished as a Cavalier earned the right.
But having said that, nothing would say closure like the Miami Heat coming to town and the Cavaliers retiring his jersey to a thankful crowd.
Dallas Mavericks, Mark Aguirre
Retired Jerseys: Brad Davis (15), Rolando Blackman (22)
Mark Aquirre was the number one overall pick for the Dallas Mavericks in 1981. He, along with Brad Davis and Rolando Blackman, led the Mavs to their glory years and only Western Conference Finals, before Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Cuban came along.
He's the team's third all-time leading scorer and is third in win shares. He's also top-10 in steals, assists and rebounds.
Inexplicably the second- and third-best players' numbers from his team's jerseys were retired, but Aguirre's never was. Maybe it's because of the conflicts between he and then-head coach Dick Motta, maybe it's Cuban's vanity.
I don't know, but Aguirre's number should be retired.
Denver Nuggets, Fat Lever
Retired Jerseys: Alex English (2), David Thomson (33), Byron Beck (40), Dan Issel (44)
Fat Lever was one of the most entertaining players of his era. He is second all-time in team history in assists, the fifth all-time leading scorer and his 1167 steals is more than anyone else in team history.
During his tenure, the Nuggets never missed the playoffs and were consistently one of the best offensive teams in the league.
Detroit Pistons, Larry Foust
Retired Jerseys: Chuck Daly (2), Joe Dumars (4), Dennis Rodman (10), Isiah Thomas (11), Vinnie Johnson (15), Bob Lanier (16), Dave Bing (21), Bill Laimbeer (40)
The Detroit Pistons are one of the teams that seem to have a good balance at knowing when to retire and not retire jerseys. The one fault I can find is that they don't honor any of their early-year players.
The most deserving player that has not had their jersey retired is Larry Foust, who led the team from 1951-1957 when it was the Fort Wayne Pistons. He remains eighth in team history in win shares and is their fifth all-time leading rebounder.
He made the All-Star game eight times, and led the Pistons to the Finals twice, though they lost both times.
Golden State Warriors, Paul Arizin
Retired Jerseys: Wilt Chamberlain (13), Tom Meschery (14), Al Attles (16), Rick Barry (24), Nate Thurmond (42)
If there's a player on this list that deserves to have his jersey retired and it hasn't been, that's Paul Arizin. It is utterly inexplicable to me why he's never had it retired.
There is just no good reason that it hasn't been retired yet. He is the Warriors' third all-time leading scorer. He is second all-time with the team in win shares. He spent his entire 10-year career with the team and led them to an NBA championship.
The only time he missed was the two years he spent fighting in the Korean war.
He is one of only three players who was named to the 50 greatest players to not have his jersey retired, and he and Dolph Schayes are the only two who spent their entire careers with one team and not had their jersey retired.
Houston Rockets, Yao Ming
Retired Jerseys: Clyde Drexler (22), Calvin Murphy (23), Moses Malone (24), Hakeem Olajuwon (34), Rudy Tomjanovich (45)
Yao Ming may have had to retire early, but his his nine-year stint with the Rockets was enough to have his jersey retired. He is the team's sixth all-time rebounder and scorer, is fifth in win shares and second in blocks.
He was the face of the franchise for his career and the major factor for the NBA "exporting" the game to China.
Indiana Pacers, Rik Smits
Retired Jerseys: George McGinnis (30), Reggie Miller (31), Mel Daniels (34), Roger Brown (35), Slick Leonard (529)
Just in case you're wondering, the number 529 wasn't Slick Leonard's number, it was the number of games he won as the head coach of the Indiana Pacers.
Rik Smits is the franchise's second all-time leading scorer and rebounder, as well as being second all-time in games played, but he hasn't had his number retired.
During his tenure, the Pacers made it to the conference finals four times and the NBA Finals once. He never suited up for anyone else.
He wasn't one of the NBA's greatest players, but he was one of the Pacers' greatest.
Los Angeles Clippers, Bob McAdoo
Retired Jerseys: None
Believe it or not, the Clippers have never retired a jersey, not even that of Bob McAdoo.
McAdoo is easily the greatest player in club history, and is the only one to ever win the MVP for the franchise. I know the Clippers don't have the most glorious history, but you'd think the one brief shining light they had would be worthy of having his jersey retired.
Los Angeles Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal
Retired Jerseys: Wilt Chamberlain (13), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25), Magic Johnson (32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), James Worthy (42), Jerry West (44), Chick Hearn (MIC)
Now that he's retired, it's time for the Los Angeles Lakers to re-embrace Shaquille O'Neal. It goes without saying that he's one of the great players in the team's history and they owe three of their championships to the "Shaq-Fu" or the "Big Aristotle" or whatever nickname you want to use.
His number hasn't been worn since he left, and probably never will be again.
*Minneapolis Lakers jerseys belonging to Jim Pollard (17), Vern Mikkelsen (19), Slater Martin (22), Clyde Lovellette (34) and George Mikan (99) are "honored" and hung from the rafters. They are still available with the exception of No. 22 (which is retired for Baylor) and of course, No. 34. Depending on your perspective, you could argue that Mikan's number should be retired ahead of Shaq's.
Memphis Grizlies, Pau Gasol
Retired Jerseys: None
The Memphis Grizzlies haven't retired any jerseys, mainly because they don't have a history of players retire who are worthy of having their number retired.
However, since this is an "every team" slideshow, I need to come up with one. Pau Gasol is the franchise's all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocks.
When he retires from the Lakers, the Grizzlies should retire his jersey. No one has worn his No. 16 since he left.
Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade
Retired Jerseys: Tim Hardaway (10), Michael Jordan (23), Alonzo Mourning (33)
Again, this is another case of a younger franchise without a long history, so it makes more sense to look at the active players, especially when it can be argued that easily the greatest player in franchise history is on the team right now.
Wade has scored nearly 5,000 points more than any other Heat. He's also the career leader in win shares, assists and steals. He's fifth in rebounds and third in blocks. Not too shabby coming from a guard.
Then there was that whole championship thing, too, just in case there's any doubt. Wade led the team in one of the great Finals performances in the history of the game.
It is hard to think of a scenario where his jersey is not retired when he does.
Milwaukee Bucks, Marques Johnson
Retired Jerseys: Oscar Robertson (1), Junior Bridgeman (2), Sidney Moncrief (3), Jon McGlocklin (14), Bob Lanier (16), Brian Winters (32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33)
Marques Johnson was arguably the best small forward in team history. During his tenure with the Bucks from 1978-84, he averaged 21.0 points per game, helped the Bucks to five division titles and was named to the All-Star game four times.
The furthest the Bucks went with him was the conference finals in 1984, where fell to the Celtics. Three of his teammates—Bridgeman, Lanier, and Moncrief—have had their numbers retired by the Bucks.
Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Garnett
Retired Jerseys: Malik Sealy (2)
The lone jersey retired by the Minnesota Timberwolves is due to tragedy more than success. Malik Sealy had his jersey retired after he died in an automobile accident.
Ironically, he was killed driving home from the birthday party of Kevin Garnett, who is without question the greatest player in Timberwolves history. Garnett is the team's all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.
Needless to say, there's not much argument here. He should have his jersey retired upon his retirement from the Boston Celtics.
New Jersey Nets, Jason Kidd
Retired Jerseys: Drazen Petrovic (3), Wendell Luther (4), John Williamson (23), Bill Melchionni (25), Julius Erving (32), Buck Williams (52)
The Nets have retired a number of jerseys but don't have that elite of a history, so it's hard to find a worthy candidate who is in retirement. So it's either make a case for Kerry Kittles to have his number retired, or put Jason Kidd here.
I went with Kidd, who is the team's all-time leader in assists and rebounds and is third all-time in points. He also led the team to their only two trips to the NBA Finals.
He is another player who will undoubtedly have his jersey retired when he hangs it up.
New Orleans Hornets, Chris Paul
Retired Jerseys: Pete Maravich (7), Bobby Phills (13)
Once again, I have to go to an active player because there is not one worth considering that is retired.
Chris Paul is the team's all-time leader in win shares, assists and steals, and he is second all-time in points and fourth in rebounds.
In his time with Hornets, he made four All-Star games, and was named to the All-NBA team three times as well as the All-Defense team three times.
New York Knicks, Harry Gallatin
Retired Jerseys: Walt Frazier (10), Dick Barnett (12), Dick McGuire (15), Earl Monroe (15), Willis Reed (19), Dave DeBusschere (22), Bill Bradley (24), Patrick Ewing (33), Red Holzman (613)
Harry Gallatin was one of the first big stars in the NBA. His numbers aren't particularly impressive because he played in a different era.
Gallatin made the All-Star Game seven times, was All-NBA twice and led the Knicks to the Finals three times.
Oklahoma City Thunder, Gary Payton
Retired Jerseys: Gus Williams (1), Nate McMillan (10), Lenny Wilkens (19), Spencer Haywood (24), Fred Brown (32), Jack Sikma (43), Bob Blackburn (MIC)
Gary Payton gets the nod here, although he'd rather not have it retired with Oklahoma City but save it for when and if Seattle ever gets another franchise. He certainly deserves it, which is the subject of the article.
Somehow I don't think this qualifier will prevent someone from making me clear about Payton's desires though.
Payton is the all-time leader in win shares, points, steals and assists. He's also third all-time in rebounds. He is regarded by many as the best defensive point guard ever. He was named to the first-team all-defense team nine times and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1996.
He took the team to the NBA Finals in 1996 where he became one of the MVOJ (Many Victims of Jordan).
Orlando Magic, Nick Anderson
Retired Jerseys: Fans (6)
It's very nice of the Orlando Magic to honor their fans by retiring the No. 6, but really, they should retire Nick Anderson's jersey as well.
When Dwight Howard scored his 10,651st point this week, he surpassed Nick Anderson as the franchise's all-time leader. Anderson is fifth all-time in assists and third in rebounds. Only Howard has more career win shares with the Magic.
As the first pick in franchise history, and easily one of their three greatest players, the franchise should retire his number.
Philadelphia 76ers, Dolph Schayes
Retired Jerseys: Moses Malone (2), Julius Erving (6), Maurice Cheeks (10), Wilt Chamberlain (13), Hal Greer (15), Bobby Jones (24), Billy Cunningham (32), Charles Barkley (34), Dave Zinkoff (MIC)
Dolph Schayes played his entire NBA career with the Syracuse Nationals, who moved to Philadelphia and became the 76ers in his final year.
He is far and away the franchise's all-time leader in win shares, with 141.8. He is also the all-time leader in rebounds and is third all-time in points.
He was All-NBA six times and an NBA All-Star 12 times. In 1955, he led the team to the NBA Championship.
It is utterly inexplicable why he has not had his number retired by the franchise.
Phoenix Suns, Larry Nance
Retired Jerseys, Dick Van Arsdale (5), Walter Davis (6), Kevin Johnson (7), Dan Majerle (9), Tom Chambers (24), Alvin Adams (33), Charles Barkley (34), Connie Hawkins (42), Paul Westphal (44), Cotton Fitzsimmons (832)
Larry Nance was a three-time All-Star, once with the Suns. He is the team's ninth all-time leading scorer and the fourth all-time leading rebounder.
He was the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder and arguably the best player that went to the conference finals in 1984.
He is the best retired player in franchise history to not have had their number retired.
Phoenix has done a good job of retiring jersey numbers, though. I could just as easily put Steve Nash here and say they've gotten all the right numbers. This is very close.
Portland Trail Blazers, Brandon Roy
Retired Jerseys: Larry Winberg (1), Dave Twardzik (13), Lionel Hollins (14), Larry Steele (15), Maurice Lucas (20), Clyde Drexler (22), Terry Porter (30), Bill Walton (32), Lloyd Neal (36), Geoff Petrie (45), Jack Ramsey (77)
Brandon Roy had a brief career with the Trail Blazers—much more brief than he deserved or than fans had hoped for. He's one of those types of players who numbers don't show fully what he brought to the team.
He was a super star-caliber player who, as much as anything, was a hero to the Trail Blazers for embracing the community.
He didn't shrink from the "small market" label, but embraced it and became a huge favorite and marked the change in culture from the "Jail Blazers" to what is now one of the "character" teams in the NBA.
What Roy means to the franchise goes beyond the stats, and I wouldn't be surprised to see his number retired.
Sacramento Kings, Jerry Lucas
Retired Jerseys: Tiny Archibald (1), Mitch Richmond (2), Chris Webber (4), Fans (6), Bob Davies (11), Maurice Stokes (12), Oscar Robertson (14), Vlade Divac (21), Jack Twyman (27), Sam Lacey (44)
The third of the three players who were named among the top 50 players in the history of the NBA who has never had his jersey retired is Jerry Lucas. Lucas averaged 19.6 points and 19.1 rebounds per game while with the Cincinnati Royals.
During his tenure, the team twice made it to the division finals but they kept running into the Boston Celtics. He made it to seven All-Star games.
He's certainly one of the greatest players to never have his jersey retired, and while his career was split between different teams, his longest tenure was with the Royals, so the Kings should retire his number.
San Antonio, Tim Duncan
Retired Jerseys: Johnny Moore (00), Avery Johnson (6), James Silas (13), Sean Elliott (32), George Gervin (44), David Robinson (50)
For the San Antonio Spurs with Bruce Bowen, you've got pretty much everyone you could make a case for having their jersey retired, so that leaves the active players. While certainly Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will have their jerseys retired, there's no question Tim Duncan is the greatest Spur who hasn't had his jersey retired, if not the greatest Spur ever.
In fact, as the lone member of all four championship teams, it's hard to make a case for anyone else, even the Admiral.
Toronto Raptors, Chris Bosh
Retired Jerseys: None
The problem Toronto has is that the great players they get, bolt. We're stuck with either Chris Bosh or Morris Peterson. It wouldn't surprise me if the club retired Chris Bosh's number when he retires. He's the franchise leader in win shares, points and rebounds.
Then again, maybe they won't. This is not a team that has had a lot of postseason success and its two biggest stars didn't leave under the best of circumstances.
You can substitute Vince Carter for Chris Bosh if you want, but it's a similar story.
Utah Jazz, Andrei Kirilenko
Retired Jerseys: Frank Layden (1), Adrian Dantley (4), Pete Maravich (7), Larry Miller (9), John Stockton (12), Jeff Hornacek (14), Karl Malone (32), Darrell Griffith (35), Mark Eaton (53)
While it's possible Andrei Kirilenko's NBA career isn't over, it's likely that his career with the Utah Jazz is. As one of the great stat-stuffers the team has ever seen Kirilenko deserves to have his "AK47" jersey retired.
Kirilenko is second in blocks, fourth in steals, fourth in assists, sixth in points and seventh in rebounds in franchise history.
For a franchise whose history is as rich as the Jazz, that should be enough to get his number retired.
Washington Wizards, Walt Bellamy
Retired Jerseys: Earl Monroe (10), Elvin Hayes (11), Gus Johnson (25), Wes Unseld (41)
The Washington Wizards have retired the number of every Hall of Famer that's played for them for more than two years but one—Walt Bellamy.
Bellamy is also one of the 18 Hall of Fame players who has never had his number retired by an NBA team, so it seems like a good match here since his best years were with the Baltimore Bullets.
During his time with the franchise, Bellamy averaged 27.6 points and 16.6 rebounds per game, making him the franchise leader in both categories.