Every NBA Team's Logical Next Jersey Retirement
The future Hall of Famer is scheduled to have both his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys lifted up to the Staples Center rafters at halftime of the Lakers' Monday night tilt with the Golden State Warriors. And that got us thinking: Who's potentially next in line to receive this same honor for every other franchise?
Career achievements will play an integral role in determining the best option for every team. But conventional logic will also be part of the equation.
If a deserving player is estranged from a franchise, we may pivot into alternatives. Special consideration will be given to standouts from years past and players nearing retirement, but the issue will not be forced beyond reason. If an active player profiles as the best option, he will be identified as such, no matter how much of his career is left in the tank.
Jerseys scheduled to get the rafters treatment—like Phil Chenier's with the Washington Wizards—will not be eligible for inclusion. They'll be recognized as "already retired," and it'll be next-best man up from there.
Bear in mind not every one of these players will necessarily have his game-day garb hoisted up near an arena's ceiling. Nor are we saying they all should. They're being selected based on how deserving and likely they would be to earn the honor if each team were required to pencil in its next jersey-hanging right now.
Atlanta Hawks: Mookie Blaylock (No. 10)
Jerseys Already Retired: Bob Pettit (No. 9), Dominique Wilkins (No. 21), Lou Hudson (No. 23); Pete Maravich (No. 44), Dikembe Mutombo (No. 55)
If we're being brutally honest, the next player who has his jersey retired by the Atlanta Hawks will be Marvin Bagley III someone who hasn't yet donned their colors. They're incredibly stingy when it comes to hanging sleeveless shrines, with just five in total—two of which, in Pete Maravich and Dikembe Mutombo, have earned the honor since 2015.
Assuming they won't randomly retire Cliff Hagan's No. 16 (though they should consider it), and because blank spaces are no fun, Mookie Blaylock gets the nod.
Relative to all other options, the 6'0" point guard is hardly an undeserving choice. He owns the franchise lead in assists and steals per game, total three-pointers and, most impressively, Box Plus-Minus (BPM)—which estimates how much value a player added per 100 possessions compared to an average contributor playing for an average team.
Even as his skills deteriorated near the end of his seven-year term, Blaylock remained a key part of the Hawks' defensive identity. He also had the benefit of spending some time in the post-Dominique Wilkins era.
It just makes sense, at this point, to recognize someone else who repped Atlanta beyond the early-1990s, as the team did with Mutombo. It sends a message to players around the league—i.e. potential free-agent targets—they'll receive indelible dap for leaving an imprint. And unless you're a big believer in Al Horford (maybe) or Joe Johnson (lol), Blaylock is the best option.
Boston Celtics: Kevin Garnett (No. 5)
Already Retired Jerseys: Robert Parish (No. 00), Walter Brown (No. 1, owner/GM/team founder), Red Auerbach (No. 2, head coach/GM/president), Dennis Johnson (No. 3), Bill Russell (No. 6), Jo Jo White (No. 10), Bob Cousy (No. 14), Tommy Heinsohn (No. 15), Satch Sanders (No. 16), John Havlicek (No. 17), Dave Cowens (No. 18), Don Nelson (No. 19), Bill Sharman (No. 21), Ed Macauley (No. 22), Frank Ramsey (No. 23), Sam Jones (No. 24), K.C. Jones (No. 25), Cedric Maxwell (No. 31), Kevin McHale (No. 32), Larry Bird (No. 33), Paul Pierce (No. 34), Reggie Lewis (No. 35), Jim Losocutoff (also No. 18, but number was kept active for Dave Cowens)
Who are we to go against Danny Ainge's plainly stated intentions? He said in 2014 the Boston Celtics would most definitely add Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the overflowing chest of off-limits numbers. And with Pierce's No. 34 now hanging up top, Garnett's No. 5 should be next.
The Big Ticket played just six seasons in Boston, more than half of which intersected with his twilight. But they were an impactful six years. The Celtics secured a title in 2008, their first since 1986, and grabbed another trip to the NBA Finals in 2010.
Garnett remained Boston's emotional bellwether through and through—the billboard for a gritty, gravelly defense and general attitude. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2007-08, his first with the Celtics, and owns the franchise's best Defensive Box Plus-Minus (DBPM).
Those Garnett-era Celtics also remain the Eastern Conference's last authentic threat to a LeBron James-led team. (Sorry, Indiana Pacers stans.) That aging, no-quit 2011-12 squad holds a special place within the Association's pantheon after pushing the eventual-champion Miami Heat to seven games in the Conference Finals.
And while Garnett's departure shouldn't really factor in, what the hell: Boston doesn't draft Jaylen Brown, select Jayson Tatum while landing another top-end selection from the Philadelphia 76ers or trade for Kyrie Irving without the picks from the deal that sent him and Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets.
Oh, and for anyone worried about the Celtics being too liberal with their retired jerseys, Gordon Hayward is now the proud owner of No. 20, which basically means Ray Allen has been expunged from Boston lore. Hooray for space-saving fallouts!
Brooklyn Nets: Richard Jefferson (No. 24)
Already Retired Jerseys: Drazen Petrovic (No. 3), Jason Kidd (No. 5), John Williamson (No. 23), Bill Melchionni (No. 25), Julius Erving (No. 32), Buck Williams (No. 52)
Richard Jefferson is a no-brainer pick for the Nets.
Brook Lopez needs get his jersey iconicized for the rampant turnover he survived alone, and for cropping up on the franchise-leaderboard more than anyone not named Jason or Buck. But Jefferson, at 37, will be retiring long before Lopez hangs it up, making him the obvious choice—boundlessly so, knowing the Nets waited around a half-second to lift up Jason Kidd's No. 5.
Jefferson's seven-year stint on the then-New Jersey Nets coincided with the organization's last extended stretch of success. Their back-to-back NBA Finals appearances came during his rookie and sophomore seasons, so he didn't hit his own stride until after the fact. But he was the third-highest scorer on that 2002-03 Eastern Conference champion outfit and assumed the role of primary scorer by his third year.
During his time in New Jersey, Jefferson was one of seven players who averaged at least 17 points, five rebounds and three assists with a true shooting percentage above 55. The company he keeps reads like a who's who of superstars from that era: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce.
Among those six players, five of them nabbed All-Star honors no fewer than six times over this seven-year span. Gasol is the anomaly, with just one selection to his name. And Jefferson is the anomaly to the anomaly; he didn't make a single All-Star appearance across this stretch—or for his career.
Talk about your uncomfortable factoids. The Nets should retire Jefferson's jersey if only to ensure his career peak, while admittedly short-lived, won't be forgotten. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can find a new number.
Charlotte Hornets: Muggsy Bogues (No. 1)
Already Retired Jersey: Bobby Phills (No. 13)
Eleven players have put on the No. 1 jersey since Muggsy Bogues' wore it for nearly a decade—including current rookie Malik Monk. That only feels like too much because it is too much.
The franchise's quirky basketball arc hasn't helped matters. The Charlotte Hornets existed, but then they didn't, and the Charlotte Bobcats latched on to the NBA as an expansion team. But the league made it clear in 2014, when the Charlotte Hornets were reborn, that all the records and accolades associated with the previous iteration would carry over to the present-day franchise.
Ergo, these Hornets have the power to view Bogues, Dell Curry, Larry Johnson, Glen Rice, et al. as their own. And should they be open to giving Bobby Phills (R.I.P.) an inanimate friend before Kemba Walker calls it quits, Bogues has to be the top choice. As Russell Varner wrote for At The Hive in 2015:
"Notice how Muggsy Bogues' name is all over the Hornets' record books? His name appears in 23 different categories, including minutes (first in franchise history), assists (first), steals (first), offensive win shares (first), games (second), assist percentage (second), total win shares (second), defensive win shares (third), points (fifth), steal percentage (fifth), defensive rebounds (eighth) and total rebounds (tenth). That's right — a 5'3" point guard remains one of the top rebounders in franchise history.
"The shortest player in NBA history helped inspire a new generation of stars in all sports, as he was the ultimate example of overcoming the odds. He was a player shorter than the majority of Americans succeeding and excelling at the sport that is defined by the height and athleticism of its athletes."
Brownie points should be given to Bogues for appearing in commercials and making a cameo in Space Jam. He held a certain cachet typically reserved for All-Stars, an uncanny status he married to longevity. Curry is the only player to appear in more games for the Hornets, and while he's a solid candidate himself, Bogues' sustained relevance as the shortest player in NBA history carries slightly more weight.
Chicago Bulls: Artis Gilmore (No. 53)
Already Retired Jerseys: Jerry Sloan (No. 4), Bob Love (No. 10), Michael Jordan (No. 23), Scottie Pippen (No. 33)
Party poopers will penalize Artis Gilmore for only leading the Chicago Bulls to a pair of postseason credits during his six-year stay.
Professional fun-havers and rational people will recognize he never received much help.
Gilmore racked up 66.4 win shares between 1976-77 and 1981-82—fourth-most in the league during that time, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving and Moses Malone. Reggie Theus placed second on the Bulls in total win shares through this span, with 24.6—or, you know, nearly 42 fewer than Gilmore.
Roster turnover and a general dearth of surrounding talent harm the 7'2" skyscraper's resume more than anything. He played with 49 different teammates in six years, not one of whom stuck with him for the entire ride. (Scott May came closest.)
Give Gilmore credit for getting Chicago to the playoffs at all, let alone twice. His resume shouldn't suffer due to collective futility—not when Abdul-Jabbar was the only player to match his 20.1 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.2 blocks per game.
Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James (No. 23)
Already Retired Jerseys: Bingo Smith (No. 7), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (No. 11), Larry Nance (No. 22), Mark Price (No. 25), Austin Carr (No. 34), Nate Thurmond (No. 42), Brad Daugherty (No. 43)
Imagine not picking LeBron James. That would be some pre-2014, Comic Sans-era bull.
Another workable candidate doesn't come close to emerging when looking at past players who are, or soon will be, out of the NBA long before James. Anderson Varejao's longevity warrants a hat tip, especially for what he endured following James' 2010 departure. But he never mirrored Zydrunas Ilgauskas' importance to the franchise.
That leaves James. The four-time MVP. The active legend who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first-ever title while ending Cleveland's 52-year cross-sport championship drought. The soon-to-be 33-year-old who is scoring with career-best efficiency in his 15th season.
James is one of the two best players in NBA history. Let debates to the contrary die. He's there, end of story, behind, ahead or in lockstep with the only baller to even have a remotely legitimate case over him: Michael Jordan.
Nothing James does from here can feasibly detract from his case—a second free-agency exit included.
(Bonus tidbit: James almost assuredly deserves to have his jersey retired by the Miami Heat as well. And if he leaves Cleveland this summer, still at the height of his powers, he'll have enough time to generate consideration from a third team. Just saying.)
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki (No. 41)
Retired Jerseys: Brad Davis (No. 15), Rolando Blackman (No. 22)
Jason Terry could technically get the go-ahead over Dirk Nowitzki when talking strictly about the timeline. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in 2015 that he plans to retire Terry's No. 31, and at age 40, as a paid mentor with the Milwaukee Bucks, The Jet is on track to walk away before Nowitzki.
But only because the 39-year-old shotsmith is going to play forever.
"I'm not going to say 100 percent I'll be back—but it's looking like it," he said of playing in 2018-19, per the Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko. “I feel fine so far. I've played every game. I'd love to play all 82. That would be amazing at [age] 39. We'll see how the body feels. But so far, it's been fine."
Alright, fine. Nowitzki won't play for eternity. He'll walk away soon, perhaps at the end of next year. And if Terry is only going to retire a year or two earlier—or at the same time—the Mavericks should delay his jersey-hanging until after Nowitzki's gets done.
Let his be the third number you retire. He's earned it. He's one of six players in NBA history to top 30,000 points (LeBron James is about to become the seventh). Depending on how healthy he remains through next year, Nowitzki has a puncher's chance of catching Michael Jordan's currently fourth-place scoring total (32,292).
Equally important: Nowitzki is a true Mavericks lifer. He hasn't merely spent his entire career in Dallas. He's gone from headlining one of the most successful regular-season stretches for nearly two decades to helping construct a bridge into the next era.
Nowitzki isn't the veteran who gums up a rebuild. He has adapted and adjusted his shot selection to be more ancillary than primary, and it shows. More of his buckets come off assists than ever before, which allows for guys like Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr. to take center stage. He is the rare player who cannot overstay his welcome, and the Mavericks should, and probably will, have his jersey retirement scheduled the second he walks away.
Denver Nuggets: Carmelo Anthony (No. 15)
Already Retired Jerseys: Alex English (No. 2), Fat Lever (No. 12), David Thompson (No. 33), Byron Beck (No. 40), Dan Issel (No. 44), Dikembe Mutombo (No. 55), Doug Moe (No. 432, head coach)
Hello, Awkwardness, our old friend.
Carmelo Anthony's case was never going to evade divisiveness, given the circumstances under which he left the Denver Nuggets.
Denver did indeed make a killing off his departure. That deal with the New York Knicks became a standard over the next few years for superstar sellers. But this had more to do with the Knicks' own stupidity—a fundamental failure to realize they were, essentially, negotiating against themselves.
Whatever, though. Bygones are bygones. Time heals all beefs. Et cetera, et cetera. Anthony deserves to get his jersey retired in a vacuum.
The Nuggets ended an eight-year playoff drought as soon as they drafted him, and he routinely placed himself among the game's top-10 players during his seven-and-a-half-years in town. He ranks third on the franchise's scoring ladder, and if you're listing off the five best players in team history, he comfortably makes the cut. His only possible superiors: Alex English, Fat Lever, Dan Issel and, if you're feeling spunky, Nikola Jokic.
Ah, yes: Nikola Jokic. He's another wrinkle. He now calls Anthony's No. 15 his own, which creates quite the predicament.
Asking him to switch this early in his career wouldn't be a big deal, but the Nuggets would have to already plan on sending Anthony's jersey into the rafters. Chances are they're not at that point yet, otherwise Jokic wouldn't have been given it in the first place.
To complicate the issue further, the Serbian superstructure isn't just another 22-year-old talent. He's best-player-in-franchise-history material. He shouldn't need to change out jerseys midway through a Hall of Fame career.
Dual-retirement feels like the only option. That, or the Nuggets would have to be completely out on Melo. They shouldn't be. Again: He played a huge part in keeping them relevant, even with the mounting first-round letdowns. But if harbored resentment wins out, Denver is left with shorter-term options like Chauncey Billups and Kiki Vandeweghe or, way down the line, Jokic himself.
Detroit Pistons: Grant Hill (No. 33)
Already Retired Jerseys: Chauncey Billups (No. 1), Chuck Daly (No. 2, head coach), Ben Wallace (No. 3), Joe Dumars (No. 4), Dennis Rodman (No. 10), Isiah Thomas (No. 11), Vinnie Johnson (No. 15), Bob Lanier (No. 16), Dave Bing (No. 21), Richard Hamilton (No. 32), Bill Laimbeer (No. 40)
Grant Hill approves this decision to select Grant Hill.
"That was always something that you would look up there during the national anthem and think 'Man, one day I would love to be up there,'" he said in 2016, per MassLive's Eric Woodyard. "Obviously, things change and what not by leaving and so on. But I'll put my six years up there up against anybody else's six years.
"So if it's meant to be, it happens," he added. "But if not, it doesn't change how I feel about the place, not one bit."
Many will cape for Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace in this spot. That's fine. Prince finished with nearly 12 years of service to the franchise and Wallace played exceptional basketball for someone clearly in his twilight. Like the already celebrated Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Ben Wallace before them, both were also members of that 2003-04 championship outfit. (Wallace, who was acquired at that season's trade deadline, made it to the party by the skin of his teeth.)
But Prince never came close to qualifying as a superstar. Hill did. Include All-Rookie honors, and he made an All-NBA team in each of his six seasons with the Pistons—not to mention five All-Star selections.
People forget how great Hill was before injuries—namely foot and ankle issues, then knee problems later on—derailed his heyday. He averaged at least 20 points, six assists and six rebounds four times, tying him with John Havlicek, Magic Johnson and Russell Westbrook for the third-most in NBA history.
Each of those seasons came with the Pistons. They get to claim his peak, his superstar window, as their own—something they cannot come close to doing with Wallace.
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry (No. 30)
Already Retired Jerseys: Wilt Chamberlain (No. 13), Tom Meschery (No. 14), Al Attles (No. 16), Chris Mullin (No. 17), Rick Barry (No. 24), Nate Thurmond (No. 42)
Stephen Curry will turn 30 in March. That should make you feel old, if you remember his rookie season. But he's the third-youngest player within this group—and for good reason.
Yes, a tinge of "Who else?" is at play. Unless you're inexplicably in love with Jason Richardson, the Golden State Warriors have zero options in that sludgy area between Chris Mullin's retirement and Curry's arrival.
Andris Biedrins has the second-most win shares of anyone who played for the team during this time. Enough said.
Mostly, though, Curry has forged his own path to consideration, shedding his label as an injury-prone specialist to become a two-time MVP and a functional outlier in an era for which he laid much of the groundwork.
Think about that: Curry is at least in part responsible for the NBA's stylistic shift on offense, and yet he remains an exception to his own rules. His magnetic pull is unlike anything the league has ever seen. Even now, on a Warriors roster stocked with All-NBA talent, he continues to be the source of their identity.
"Curry's singular shooting is the organizing principle for everything the Warriors have built," ESPN.com's Zach Lowe wrote. "It is the electrical current powering the body— doing indispensable, foundational work even when you don't see it."
Tack on two championships (and counting), along with the NBA's only unanimous MVP selection, and Curry won't just retire as the most valuable player in franchise history. He'll be one of the league's all-time greats, bar none, as someone who melded volume, efficiency and ungoverned decision-making into an unprecedented package.
Houston Rockets: Elvin Hayes (No. 44)
Already Retired Jerseys: Yao Ming (No. 11), Clyde Drexler (No. 22), Calvin Murphy (No. 23), Moses Malone (No. 24), Hakeem Olajuwon (No. 34), Rudy Tomjanovich (No. 45)
Elvin Hayes and Ralph Sampson are about the only two players up for consideration in the Houston Rockets division. Picking either one is fine, but Hayes has the demonstrative advantage in sample size. He spent seven seasons with the organization across two different terms, when factoring in his time with the San Diego Rockets.
His second go-round wasn't especially pretty. He missed just two total games over his final two campaigns, but his playing time plummeted, and he was a small-burst role player in his last year (1983-84).
Still, Hayes didn't carve out a Hall of Fame career that included 12 All-Star selections and six All-NBA bids because of his charming personality. On the contrary, he often came off as grating to teammates and coaches, something he has copped to in the past. But they tolerated his on- and off-court baggage because, the reward was worth it.
Through his first four seasons in the NBA, all of them with the Rockets, Hayes totaled just under 9,000 points. Just three other players have ever matched or exceeded that output over their initial four years: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. Ditto for Hayes' defensive win shares. He raked in 25.7 during his first four seasons, which trails only Dave Cowens, David Robinson and Bill Russell.
To this day, despite totaling a so-so seven seasons with the franchise, Hayes ranks in the top five of total points (fourth), rebounds (second), made field goals (fourth) and minutes played (fifth). The Rockets can get by without letting his jersey billow in the central-air breeze of Toyota Center, but why should they want to?
Because he's more known for his services with the Wizards, who have already retired his No. 11? That's not a viable excuse. Hayes accomplished enough with the Rockets to earn dual-rafter citizenship.
Indiana Pacers: Rik Smits (No. 45)
Already Retired Jerseys: George McGinnis (No. 30), Reggie Miller (No. 31), Mel Daniels (No. 34), Roger Brown (No. 35), Slick Leonard (No. 529, head coach)
One-time All-Stars seldom warrant retired jerseys, but Rik Smits is among the justifiable exceptions. He spent his entire 12-year career with the Pacers while missing more than 10 games in a single season only twice—durability he parlayed into comfy franchise ranks:
- Games Played: Second
- Minutes Played: Second
- Made Field-Goals Second
- Points: Second
- Rebounds: Third
- Blocks: Second
- Win Shares: Fourth
Raw totals aren't everything. They reward longevity as much as skill. And Smits isn't some criminally undervalued player. He doesn't crack Indiana's top 10 in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) or stand out when looking at per-game and per-possession output.
But longevity is a skill unto itself. And Smits was a key cog for some of the best teams in Pacers history, specifically as a sidekick to Reggie Miller.
Besides, the role-player argument doesn't exactly work against him. The best alternative would be Dale Davis, the ultimate glue guy. Jermaine O'Neal played like a star for much of his eight years in Indiana but isn't viewed in the same vein as mainstays of the Reggie Miller era. The Pacers will retire Paul George's No. 13 or 24 before O'Neal's No. 7.
A few years from now, when his departure isn't so fresh and Victor Oladipo has a couple MVP awards in his trophy case, George might be the first-choice selection. But right now, given Indiana's lack of other intriguing options, rolling with a franchise-lifer feels right.
Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul (No. 3)
Already Retired Jerseys: None
Objections to this selection will not be taken under advisement. If Chris Paul doesn't deserve to be the first Los Angeles Clipper to have his jersey retired, no one does.
Primetime Elton Brand was fun as hell. Blake Griffin may wind up being a lifetime Clipper and preceded Paul's arrival by two years. DeAndre Jordan will have a legitimate case to join whatever ranks exist no matter how his current situation ends, be it with a new contract this summer or trade before then.
Los Angeles can even harken back to its Buffalo Braves days and give special credence to Bob McAdoo's 334-game tenure.
Not one of these other options, however, oversaw the best era in franchise history. Paul did.
Brutally timed injuries and collapses prevented the Clippers from ever making it past the second round of the playoffs with him at the helm, but their regular-season success over his six-year stopover stands up to almost any team's performance. They owned the league's third-highest winning percentage, ceding status only to the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
Replicating that habitual dominance without Paul in the fold would have been out of the question. Griffin and Jordan aren't hangers-on, but Paul is the one responsible for dragging the Clippers out of obscurity.
Never mind his franchise ranks. He sits atop a vast array of categories, as any player of consequence would for a success-starved organization. His standing relative to the rest of the league while in Los Angeles is far more impressive. He paced the NBA in assist percentage, finished second in steal rate and offensive rating and placed inside the top five of win shares and player efficiency rating (PER).
Few players over the course of history have meant everything to multiple franchises. After transitioning from a lifeline in New Orleans to an identical savior for Los Angeles, Paul counts himself as one of them.
Los Angeles Lakers: Pau Gasol (No. 16)
Already Retired Jerseys: Kobe Bryant (Nos. 8 and 24), Wilt Chamberlain (No. 13), Elgin Baylor (No. 22), Gail Goodrich (No. 25), Magic Johnson (No. 32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (No. 33), Shaquille O'Neal (No. 34), James Worthy (No. 42), Jerry West (No. 44), Jamaal Wilkes (No. 52)
Pau Gasol deserves to join the Lakers' list of hands-off numbers for his chemistry with Kobe Bryant alone.
Where he constantly butt heads with Shaquille O'Neal, even as they were amassing titles, Bryant genuinely seemed to like Gasol. And gaining both his friendship and trust is no easy feat. Just ask Smush Parker.
Of course, Gasol has the numbers and hardware to follow Bryant into the Staples Centers rafters. He averaged 17.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 blocks on 52.2 percent shooting through six-plus seasons, over which time he collected three All-Star selections, three All-NBA bids and two titles. He also played Bryant to quasi-stalemates whenever the postseason tipped off.
During the Lakers' 2009-10 championship push, it was Gasol, not Bryant, who led the team in postseason win shares—far from a tell-all achievement, but nevertheless impressive.
And hey, if this argument doesn't tickle your fancy, let the Lakers speak for themselves. As of January 2015, midway through Gasol's first year outside Hollywood, they intended to one day retire his No. 16 tank, per Bill Oram of the Orange County Register.
Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley (No. 11) and Marc Gasol (No. 33)
Already Retired Jerseys: Tony Allen (No. 9), Zach Randolph (No. 50)
Let's keep it simple
Tony Allen and Zach Randolph are getting their numbers retired as a nod to their contributions during the Grit & Grind era. The final two members of the Memphis Grizzlies' Core Four should be next, in whichever order they retire.
Gasol is the safer bet going by age alone. He'll be 35 by the time his current contract runs its course (player option for 2019-20), while Conley is locked up through 2021-2022 (player option).
But the order doesn't actually matter. Conley and Gasol rank first and second, respectively, in the franchise's win-share pecking order. They both deserve the honor, and no one, save for Allen and Randolph, should be given the go-ahead before them.
Maybe the Grizzlies eventually want to recognize Pau Gasol for his six-and-a-half seasons of work. Or perhaps they're pulled to show some love for glue-guy extraordinaire Shane Battier. That's fine. They should totally do that...after Conley and Gasol join Allen and Randolph in the ceiling-high pantheon.
Grit & Grind has always been, and should forever be, a package deal.
Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade (No. 3)
Already Retired Jerseys: Tim Hardaway (No. 10), Michael Jordan (No. 23, contributions to basketball), Shaquille O'Neal (No. 32), Alonzo Mourning (No. 33)
Realistically speaking, Udonis Haslem may be next in line to have his jersey retired by the Heat. He hasn't been a double-double threat for the better part of a decade, but he's spent his entire 15-year career in Miami and that means a great deal to the franchise.
Timing alone allows the Heat to at least consider mirroring what the Grizzlies did with Zach Randolph and Tony Allen: announcing a jersey retirement immediately after he departs or, more likely, retires.
Logistically speaking, Dwyane Wade is the pick—the only pick. He isn't the greatest player in franchise history, since LeBron James called Miami home for almost a half-decade, but his 13-year tenure vaults him over everyone.
Remove James' abridged run from the record, and Wade is first on the Heat in points per game, third in assists per game, second in steals per game and first in Box Plus-Minus. The Big Three experiment that brought James and Chris Bosh to Miami and resulted in two titles doesn't take place without Wade as a conduit. He accepted pay cuts and diminished roles, and despite leaving under iffy circumstances in 2016, he's considered a franchise-lifer by default.
"What happened with Dwyane floored me," team president Pat Riley said shortly after Wade left for Chicago (via SI.com). "I'm going to miss the fact of what I might have had planned for him and his future and how I saw the end and my thought process in how I could see his end here with the Heat. ... It’s my responsibility to sort of make that happen. I didn't make it happen. Dwyane left, and the buck stops here.”
Bet on the Heat waiting to immortalize Haslem's No. 40 until Wade's No. 3 has received its due. Maybe they unofficially retire No. 40 by refusing to let anyone else take it, but after the imperfect ending to what was once painted as a storybook marriage, Wade's jersey should take priority.
Milwaukee Bucks: Marques Johnson (No. 8)
Already Retired Jerseys: Oscar Robertson (No. 1), Junior Bridgeman (No. 2,; Sidney Moncrief (No. 4), Bob Dandrige (No. 10), John McGlocklin (No. 14), Bob Lanier (No. 16), Brian Winters (No. 32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (No. 33)
Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal laid out why it makes sense for Marques Johnson's No. 8 to join the Bucks' gaggle of hallowed jerseys back in 2015, and his reasoning remains airtight now:
"In seven go-rounds with the team, he made four All-Star appearances while averaging 21 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists from the small forward position. Only twice did he allow his PER to slip below 20, and it never fell past the 18.0 mark he earned during the 1981-82 campaign.
It also didn't take him particularly long to break in. He and David Robinson remain the only two players in NBA history to post at least 19 points, 10 boards, two dimes, a steal and a block during the average rookie outing.
Especially considering some of the other players the Bucks have chosen to honor—[John] McGlocklin, in particular—Johnson is more than deserving."
For present day's purposes: If not Johnson, then who else?
Michael Redd? Eh. Glenn Robinson? Also eh. Sam Cassell? His four-season body of work is a tad light. Jack Sikma? Five years of mostly twilight basketball doesn't cut it.
Ray Allen? Maaaybe. But his Seattle Supersonics (No. 34) or Celtics (No. 20) jersey should be commemorated first. Giannis Antetokounmpo is wearing No. 34 for the Bucks these days anyway. Even making an exception for him to keep the number while canonizing Allen's time in it would be weird. Plus, Ray-Ray's residency with the team didn't end in the most amicable fashion. The trade that sent him to Seattle caught him entirely off-guard.
Antetokounmpo has the best case of any other choice. But riding with his surefire odds remains premature when the Bucks have someone who is clearly one of the most valuable players in franchise history awaiting his turn. Here's hoping Matthew Dellavedova won't mind.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett (No. 21)
Already Retired Jerseys: Malik Sealy (No. 2)
Another easy decision.
Kevin Garnett eclipsed 19,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 4,000 assists, 1,000 steals and 1,500 blocks through his first 12 seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. For context on just how absurd that is, consider this: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan are the only players to meet those benchmarks for their career. And Garnett hit them with another career's worth of basketball to spare (nine years).
Minnesota's failure to make it past the first round more than once puts a damper on Garnett's time, but it doesn't make this any less of a cherry-pie decision. And Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor recognizes as much. He reiterated in November that Garnett "has an open invite whenever he'd like his jersey retired in a ceremony," per ESPN 1500's Darren Wolfson.
Good luck with that, Glen.
"I like individuals, not so much on the organizations," Garnett told Vice Sports' Michael Pina while talking about which teams have piqued his interest in retirement. "Obviously I’m gonna be with Minnesota and the players. Not so much upstairs. I don’t really deal with Minnesota’s upstairs. They suck."
Garnett also explained to Awful Announcing's Shlomo Sprung that, while he'd love to join the Timberwolves ownership group someday, he won't do it with Taylor in place: “I don’t want to be partners with Glen, and I wouldn’t want to be partners with Glen in Minnesota. I would love to be part of a group that buys him out and kind of removes him and go forward.”
Clearly, Garnett is still salty about how things unfolded in Minnesota following the death of Flip Saunders. And though his apparent aversion to the franchise's suits doesn't override this pick, it does beg the question: Will he have his No. 5 retired in Boston before he lets the Timberwolves give his No. 21 the rafters treatment?
New Orleans Pelicans: Chris Paul (No. 3)
Already Retired Jerseys: Pete Maravich (No. 7, contributions to basketball of Louisiana)
Chris Paul most likely gets the green light, even if the New Orleans Pelicans retained the rights to Hornets lore, but he's the sole choice when the pool of candidates stretches back less than two decades, to 2002-03.
Just so we all have an idea of what this means: Anthony Davis' six seasons in New Orleans tie him with Paul for the second-most in franchise history. (David West's eight-year term is first. Also note that Paul played out his first two seasons in Oklahoma City, when the then-Hornets were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.)
So, um, yeah...
Paul is a shoo-in for rafters duty. Davis' No. 23 is already ticketed for the same prominent placement, but Paul will be out of the game long before him, and his self-orchestrated escape won't compel the franchise to engage in petty timeline politics.
New Orleans, as a franchise, should be thankful for the six years it housed Paul. He piloted the Hornets to three playoff berths and graded out as one of the NBA's five most valuable players by pretty much every defining metric—including, but not limited to, assist rate (second), steal percentage (second), PER (third), win shares (fifth) and BPM (second).
New York Knicks: John Starks (No. 3)
Already Retired Jerseys: Walt "Clyde" Frazier (No. 10). Dick Barnett (No. 12), Earl Monroe (No. 15), Dick McGuire (also No. 15), Willis Reed (No. 19). Dave DeBusschere (No. 22), Bill Bradley (No. 24), Patrick Ewing (No. 33), Red Holzman (No. 613, head coach)
Charles Oakley would be the pick for any reasonable franchise. He brought a hard-nosed, enforcer-level fearlessness to the Knicks for 10 years. He is their all-time leader in offensive rebounds, second in total steals, fifth in DBPM, and, most impressively, second in VORP behind only Patrick Ewing.
The issue? The Knicks are the furthest thing from a reasonable franchise under owner James Dolan's rule. They've long treated Oakley as if he has cooties, and tensions reached their apex last February, when he was booted from Madison Square Garden and arrested during a nationally televised clash with the Clippers.
Since the Knicks have absolute control over which jerseys receive preferential adulation, Oakley cannot be deemed their logical pick, even though he's the obviously logical pick. Circle back to this once Dolan is no longer in control. (Food for thought: Think of all the character points Dolan would earn if he put an end to Phil Jackson's reign of stubborn inability and buried the hatchet with Oakley via a jersey-raising.)
Purge Oakley from consideration, and we land on John Starks—a fan favorite who wowed with his dunks and earned his stripes chasing around the Michael Jordans and Reggie Millers of the 1990s. He was also the first undrafted player ever named an All-Star, the first to ever hit 200 three-pointers in one season and he took home the 1996-97 Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Too many guys have worn No. 3 since Starks was traded to the Warriors for Latrell Sprewell in 1999, including a number of fading stars whose best years came long before they arrived in New York (Stephon Marbury, Tracy McGrady, Kenyon Martin and Brandon Jennings). It currently belongs to Tim Hardaway Jr.
If all that confusion means it's not going to be Starks, well, sit tight.
Porzingis' day should come in another 15 to 20 years.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Nick Collison (No. 4)
Already Retired Jerseys: Gus Williams (No. 1), Nate McMillan (No. 10), Lenny Wilkens (No. 19), Spencer Haywood (No. 24), Fred Brown (No. 32), Jack Sikma (No. 43).
Oklahoma City's situation is all kinds of weird.
Showing some rafter love to Supersonics stars Ray Allen, Shawn Kemp or Gary Payton would make so much sense. And yet, if the Thunder were up for paying homage to their Seattle roots, Payton's No. 20 would be good and retired.
Kevin Durant has an ironclad argument in a world free from emotion and sophistic quibbling. He is, without question, the best player in franchise history. It doesn't matter how he left.
Then again, it sort of does. The Thunder permitted PJ Dozier, an undrafted two-way player, to wear No. 35—and, yes, Durant noticed. He talked through his reaction and current feelings with Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher:
"I didn't have that perspective at first. I didn't have it when I went back to OKC. I was like, 'F--k all of them.' I didn't have it when they gave my number away. I was, 'F--k all of them.' My best friend works for the team, I told him, 'F--k all y'all. That's f--ked up.' Then I had to get out of my head, tell myself, 'It's not that serious, it is what it is.' I understand it's not my number anymore, they can do whatever they want with it, but you hand that number to a two-way player, you've got to be, like, 'Nah, we've got too many good memories with this number, man.'
"But at some point, that thing's going to be in the rafters anyway; it's all good. I did something they didn't like. They did something I didn't like. S--t happens. If I was on my death bed, I guarantee you Sam Presti and Russell Westbrook would come check on me. So I'm going to look at it that way rather than the other way."
Cooler heads will prevail at some point. No way, no how, do the Thunder get away with never retiring his jersey. But will they go out of their way to laud Russell Westbrook's No. 0 first? Definitely probably maybe.
Nick Collison becomes the most logical pick with all these politics in mind. He's set to retire after this year, at which time he'll have spent all 15 of his seasons with the Thunder franchise. The Sonics retired Nate McMillan's No. 10 jersey almost solely due to his longevity, and as the longest-tenured player in team history, fan-favorite Collison should see his No. 4 follow a similar path to indelibility.
Orlando Magic: Shaquille O'Neal (No. 32)
Already Retired Jerseys: Sixth Man (No. 6)
What are the Orlando Magic waiting for exactly? They can't still be bitter over Shaquille O'Neal bolting for the Lakers after four years, can they? Not after inducting him into their Hall of Fame. And most certainly not after he all but apologized for leaving.
"Knowing what I know now, I would've stayed," O'Neal said in 2015, after gaining entry into the Magic's Hall of Fame, per the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins. "I would've stayed and fulfilled my seven years and then looked at it differently after my seventh year."
Four years is by no means a lengthy tenure. But they were a ridiculous four years.
O'Neal carried the Magic out of their expansion-team abyss. No other player in NBA history has ever totaled at least 8,000 points, 3,000 rebounds and 800 blocks through his first four seasons. He compiled more than twice as many win shares as anyone on that 50-win team in 1993-94...when he was a sophomore. He steered them toward the NBA Finals during his third season.
Perhaps O'Neal's induction into the Magic's Hall of Fame leads them to making No. 32 their first real retired jersey. They're not waiting on someone else to go first, after all.
Nick Anderson, Penny Hardaway or Tracy McGrady could have received the honor long ago; Jameer Nelson, while not unworthy, isn't a player you wait on; and raising up Dwight Howard's No. 12 would be flat-out hypocritical even after noting he spent eight years in Orlando to O'Neal's four.
Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (No. 21)
Already Retired Jerseys: Moses Malone (No. 2), Allen Iverson (No. 3), Dolph Schayes (No. 4), Julius Erving (No. 6), Mo Cheeks (No. 10), Wilt Chamberlain (No. 13), Hal Greer (No. 15), Bobby Jones (No. 24), Billy Cunningham (No. 32), Charles Barkley (No. 34)
Joel Embiid? At 23 years old? As a fourth-year sophomore? With a history of foot, knee and back problems? And with fewer than 60 appearances at the NBA level under his belt?
Is the Sixers' situation that dire?
Yes and no.
By (finally) retiring Dolph Schayes' No. 4 jersey in 2016, they have now monumentalized every player who places in the top eight of franchise win shares—and then some. In doing so, they have exhausted their best options from yesteryear and are left to grapple with a plebeian post-Allen Iverson cast.
Giving rafter props to Samuel Dalembert, Andre Iguodala, Aaron McKie, Eric Snow or Thaddeus Young would be the real-life equivalent of clickbait. The Sixers could dig deep into their past and do it up with Chet Walker. Or they could offer ups to Doug Collins. But both would feel like desperation heaves—though, to be fair, Walker falls well short of egregious.
The burden of proof now lies with those who are against Embiid.
Prove that he doesn't belong here. Find a way to disqualify someone on course to join Tim Duncan, Bob McAdoo, Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson and Ralph Sampson as the only players to average at least 20 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks through their first two seasons.
Health alone isn't a strong enough argument against Embiid. When he's on the floor, aside from making The Process worth every loss, he looks the part of a first-ballot Hall of Famer—the first Philly has roofed since Iverson was in his prime.
Phoenix Suns: Shawn Marion (No. 31)
Already Retired Jerseys: Dick Van Arsdale (No. 5), Walter Davis (No. 6), Kevin Johnson (No. 7), Dan Majerle (No. 9), Steve Nash (No. 13), Tom Chambers (No. 24), Alvin Adams (No. 33), Charles Barkley (No. 34), Connie Hawkins (No. 42), Paul Westphal (No. 44)
Shawn Marion never receives enough credit for his importance to those Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns. He never gets proper due for his career, period.
The NBA at large didn't understand what it had in his time—a switchable wing who could defend almost every position, hit the occasional three and make some plays off the bounce. That player earns two max contracts and more than four All-Star appearances in today's league.
Looking back even now, being fully aboard the "Shawn Marion is a Hall of Famer" bandwagon doesn't inoculate you against total surprise.
Did you know that Marion is the Suns' all-time leader in win shares? And VORP? And defensive rebounds? Did you know he averaged 18.6 points, 10.0(!) rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.4 blocks in his eight full seasons with the Suns? And that no one else in the league replicated that output?
If you did, then congratulations. You're ahead of the curve.
You already know Marion can, should and better be the next Suns player to have his jersey retired—his less-than-ideal exit, via trade, be absolutely damned.
Portland Trail Blazers: Brandon Roy (No. 7)
Already Retired Jerseys: Larry Weinberg (No. 1, owner), Dave Twardzik (No. 13), Lionel Hollins (No. 14), Larry Steele (No. 15), Maurice Lucas (No. 20), Clyde Drexler (No. 22), Bob Gross (No. 30), Terry Porter (also No. 30), Bill Walton (No. 32), Lloyd Neal (No. 36), Geoff Petrie (No. 45), Jack Ramsay (No. 77, head coach)
Five seasons of service with no more in sight won't get you in this discussion on most teams. But the Portland Trail Blazers aren't most teams. They've historically been more lenient when it comes to jersey retirements and samples sizes.
Four of the 10 player numbers they've retired have gone to those who spent five years or fewer in a Portland uniform: Lionel Hollins (five seasons), Maurice Lucas (five), Dave Twardzik (four) and Bill Walton (four). And though some of them appeared in more games than Roy, not one logged more total minutes. He also ranks first among this group in total win shares and second in PER (behind Walton).
If the Blazers felt right retiring their jerseys, they should have no qualms about doing the same Roy—especially given all the big-time moments he crammed into his five-year stay, as rehashed by Blazers Edge's Chris Lucia in 2015:
"Who could forget about the virtually unanimous Rookie of the Year season, the turnaround, 30-foot three-point game-winner against the Rockets and the heroic—if ultimately unfruitful—return to game action just eight days after knee surgery going into the 2010 playoffs? Perhaps the most special memory Rip City fans have of Roy, among dozens, is the comeback he spearheaded in Game 4 of the 2011 playoffs against the Mavericks—which still gives me chills when I think about it."
In another situation, with another team, Arvydas Sabonis' seven-year career probably takes center stage. But the Blazers have set a precedent. Roy played long enough, by their standards, for his franchise ranks to hold serious weight. And the Blazers know it. They have to.
Why else would they have thus far refrained from letting anyone else wear his No. 7?
Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins (No. 15)
Already Retired Jerseys: Tiny Archibald (No. 1), Mitch Richmond (No. 2), Chris Webber (No. 4), Sixth Man (No. 6), Bob Davies (No. 11), Maurice Stokes (No. 12), Oscar Robertson (No. 14), Peja Stojakovic (No. 16), Vlade Divac (No. 21), Jack Twyman (No. 27), Sam Lacey (No. 44)
Evaluate DeMarcus Cousins' time with the Kings by playoff berths and technical-foul tallies, and he's a failure.
Measure it against the numbers, and he's a victim—a once-in-a-generation talent whose individual dominance was wasted by Sacramento's own follies.
Cousins averaged 21.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks during his seven(ish)-year stay with the Kings. He was even more dominant over his final three-plus seasons, increasing his volume as a setup man and expanding his range beyond the arc. The end result: He became the first player in NBA history to clear 20 points, 10 rebounds three assists and one three-point make more than once.
Sure, the Kings finished with the Association's third-worst winning percentage during the Boogie era. But that cannot be put entirely on him, and his attitude. Parse the numbers, and he did his part, collecting more than twice as many win shares as any other Kings player.
Is it his fault he ended up playing beside 60 different teammates? Or that the Kings burned top-eight picks in successive seasons on Thomas Robinson (2012), Ben McLemore (2013) and Nik Stauskas (2014)? Should he be responsible for Sacramento cutting bait with Isaiah Thomas, one of the team's few savvy draft picks, in 2014? Did he force the front office to fork over a pick swap in 2017 and unprotected first-rounder in 2019 to open up cap space that culminated in Marco Belinelli, Kosta Koufos and Rajon Rondo?
Playing the no-postseason card doesn't even track. Mitch Richmond and his one playoff appearance in seven years wouldn't be on here if it did. No, the plight of Cousins has more to do with behind-the-scenes drama—the tenuous relationship between volatile cornerstone and untrustworthy franchise. And time away from one another will take care of that.
"I loved it. I've got nothing but love for this city," Cousins said after his first game back in Sacramento as a member of the Pelicans, per Sactown Royalty's Blake Ellington. "Came here as a kid, left as a man. As I've stated many times, I've got people here I consider family. These fans have been great to me throughout the years and the love will always remain the same."
On second thought, maybe it already has—Vince Carter being allowed to wear Cousins' No. 15 notwithstanding.
San Antonio Spurs: Manu Ginobili (No. 20)
Already Retired Jerseys: Johnny Moore (No. 00), Avery Johnson (No. 6), Bruce Bowen (No. 12), James Silas (No. 13), Tim Duncan (No. 21), Sean Elliott (No. 32), George Gervin (No. 44), David Robinson (No. 50)
The Spurs have made this easy by setting a blueprint for how they'll handle jersey commemorations for departing members of their Big Three: in order of retirement.
Tim Duncan walked away first and saw his No. 21 head up to the rafters midway through the next season. That only leaves Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to choose from, and really, we have no choice at all.
Parker wants to play 20 seasons, which puts him out of the league after 2020-21. Ginobili, meanwhile, almost followed Duncan into a semi-professional shuffleboard career this past summer. That puts him out of the league...sometime before Parker.
This hurts to say, but don't be surprised if we're talking about Ginobili's jersey retirement one year from now. He could Eurostep his way around defenders in the lane and fling bullets to corner three-point shooters until he's 50 or 55 if he really tried. It just doesn't seem like he wants to try.
Also, for anyone who continues to doubt Ginobili's Hall of Fame candidacy, please keep your terrible, no-good, really bad takes to yourself.
The twitchy swingman would have been a patented superstar in a higher-usage role. He surrendered touches and status in exchange for four championships—sacrifices, mind you, that still leave him beside Larry Bird and James Harden, as the only three players with career averages of at least 18 points, five rebounds and five assists per 36 minutes on 36 percent or better shooting from long range.
Toronto Raptors: Vince Carter (No. 15)
Already Retired Jerseys: None
Better question: Does any of this really matter? Not even sort of.
Carter and the Raptors are close to 15 years removed from their divorce. That much time makes whatever misunderstanding they shared seem trivial, if only because of how important their six seasons and change were to the future of basketball in Canada.
Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and team president Masai Ujiri have turned Toronto into a borderline powerhouse—a fringe contender with the talent to run off 50 victories in any given season, and the clout that resonates with free agents and inbound trade acquisitions on the final year of their contracts (Serge Ibaka).
Before them, however, there was Carter. He almost single-handedly put the Raptors on the radar, and even he wants to put a pretty bow on his legacy as a Raptor.
"It'll happen, for sure," he said, per Blake Murphy of the Raptors Republic, on the prospect of finishing his career with Toronto. "Somehow, whether it's one day or something, it'll happen. It's supposed to happen, I think. I can say that now. I've had a lot of people say it's supposed to happen, so now I guess I have to believe."
And as Carter, a 20-year veteran, inches closer toward retirement, he also wants to be the first Raptor with a jersey tribute. He told as much to The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears. And the Raptors, all these years later, should want his No. 15 to be that inaugural steppingstone to a franchise officially steeped in its own memorable history.
Utah Jazz: Andrei Kirilenko (No. 47)
Already Retired Jerseys: Frank Layden (No. 1, GM/head coach), Adrian Dantley (No. 4), Pete Maravich (No. 7), Larry Miller (No. 9, owner), John Stockton (No. 12), Jeff Hornacek (No. 14), Karl Malone (No. 32), Darell Griffith (No. 35), Mark Eaton (No. 53), Jerry Sloan (No. 1223)
Say hello to one of the most underrated players in NBA history.
Andrei Kirilenko gave active meaning to the concept of do-it-all talents. He was a wing with the handles of a guard and the shot-swatting chops of a big. His jumper could be an eyesore, and he wasn't efficient from the outside, but he found ways to duck inside and reach the rim. Close to half of his looks came inside three feet during his 10 years with the Utah Jazz, on which he shot nearly 63 percent.
Only one player across that decade-long span matched Kirilenko's point (8,411), rebound (3,836), assists (1,919) and block (1,380) totals: Some dude named Tim Duncan. And these counting stats were no mirage. He has the second-highest BPM and third-highest VORP in Jazz history.
This isn't solely a Utah phenomenon either. Kirilenko graded out as one of the best two-way players in the league, nose-to-nose with the elite of the elite. Just two players matched his BPM score on either side of the floor through those 10 years: Duncan and Kevin Garnett.
Somebody put this man's jersey where it belongs: in Utah's rafters.
Washington Wizards: Walt Bellamy (No. 8)
Already Retired Jerseys: Earl Monroe (No. 10), Elvin Hayes (No. 11), Gus Johnson (No. 25), Wes Unseld (No. 41), Phil Chenier (No. 45, March 2018)
Walt Bellamy isn't the spitting image of someone who gets his jersey retired.
First and foremost: Teams aren't supposed to wait this long. Bellamy last took the court in 1974 and wrapped his career with the Baltimore Bullets midway through 1965-66. That's the other thing: He bounced around compared to Hall of Famers, never spending five full seasons with the same organization.
Bellamy's longest tenure technically came with the Hawks, across four entire seasons and a fraction of another one. But he was at his most dominant during a combo-stint with the Bullets, Chicago Packers and Chicago Zephyrs, averaging 27.6 points and 16.6 rebounds on 51.6 percent shooting.
Peruse through the franchise's record books, and Bellamy comes up everywhere. He is first in minutes, points and rebounds per game, plus PER. His small sample helps buoy those numbers, but he still pops up when looking at the raw data—eighth in total points and fourth in total rebounds. He's also third in win shares, trailing only Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld.
John Wall will soon surpass him in that department, but keeping hold of that position for so long while making under 330 appearances is impossibly good. And although Bellamy gets overlooked, often because he never earned All-NBA honors, he fared quite well for someone contending with the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain.
Hall of Famers this objectively dominant deserve a spot up top somewhere. And the Wizards have more of an impetus than any team to make it happen. They're the franchise with which his career most identifies, and they have some time to kill before their next-most-deserving candidate, in Wall, is ready to have his jersey slung from the top of Capital One Arena.