5 Former NBA Players Who Need Their Jerseys Retired Immediately

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 22, 2018

5 Former NBA Players Who Need Their Jerseys Retired Immediately

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    When it comes to handling jersey retirements, NBA teams are left to their own devices.

    While most commonly used to honor all-time greats, there are a number of different purposes a jersey retirement can serve. Some have honored legendary broadcasters, owners, executives and coaches. The Orlando Magic raised a No. 6 for their fans. Michael Jordan and Dan Marino both have jerseys hanging above the Miami Heat's home floor. The Atlanta Hawks raised a ceremonial jersey for former mayor Kasim Reed.

    Good luck figuring out the criteria that binds them all together.

    We'll focus on the most obvious one here—former players who produced at historic levels. They must be retired and can't have a jersey hanging from any NBA arena. Other than that, it's fair game to decide the five players most deserving of a jersey retirement.

Ray Allen

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The question with retiring Ray Allen's jersey isn't whether he deserves it, but rather which one most belongs in the rafters.

    He played more games with the Milwaukee Bucks (494) than he did with any other team, and he made his first three All-Star appearances there. He produced his best numbers with the then-Seattle SuperSonics, averaging 24.6 points and 4.2 assists over four-plus seasons. He posted a brilliant 47.2/40.9/91.4 shooting slash over five campaigns with the Boston Celtics, helping them to capture the 2007-08 title.

    And while his shortest tenure came with the Miami Heat, he delivered his signature moment in South Beach. His miraculous game-tying triple in the closing seconds of Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals proved nothing short of a championship-saver.

    The fact he isn't synonymous with a single organization perhaps explains why he enjoyed Hall of Fame enshrinement before a jersey retirement. But that might mean his threads deserve to be honored inside multiple arenas.

    "I'd imagine Milwaukee eventually puts his jersey up, and I think there's an outside shot Miami does, if only for The Shot in 2013 against the Spurs," NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote. "And while the C's are running out of numbers, there's no doubting Allen's impact on the 2008 title team and the 2010 Finals team."

    Allen remains the Association's all-time leader in threes (2,973), and he's a top-25 career scorer (24,505 points, 24th). If those numbers don't demand a jersey retirement, good luck finding any that do.

Kevin Garnett

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Kevin Garnett dominated the NBA in impossible fashion.

    He was the first preps-to-pros leaper in nearly two decades, paving a path for young phenoms behind him. He entered as a small forward and eventually shifted all the way to center, evolving both the frontcourt positions and the sport itself as a mobile, athletic and skilled big man. He made the Minnesota Timberwolves relevant, carrying a franchise that topped out at 29 wins before his arrival to the conference finals.

    As a testament to his transformative versatility, he walked away as the NBA's only player ever to top 25,000 points, 14,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 2,000 blocks and 1,500 steals.

    "There's the Hall of Fame and then there's a table at the Hall of Fame, and Kevin Garnett is at the table," then-Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said in 2012, per SB Nation's Paul Flannery. "There's very few people who get to sit at the table."

    Garnett sits atop virtually every career counting category in Minnesota's franchise history. He paced the 2008 champion Celtics in win shares (12.9) and still sits No. 1 on the organization's all-time defensive box plus/minus rankings (3.5).

    How does he not have at least one jersey hanging by this point? It's complicated.

    Paul Pierce has said the Celtics will "without a doubt" retire Garnett's No. 5 at some point, per ESPN.com's Chris Forsberg. As for the Timberwolves, owner Glen Taylor has said "the door is open" if Garnett wants, per 1500 ESPN's Derek Wetmore, but the interest hasn't been reciprocated yet.

Grant Hill

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Grant Hill can't make the longevity argument for the Detroit Pistons to retire his duds, as he spent only six seasons in the Motor City. But shifting the conversation from quantity to quality makes this a no-brainer.

    "I'll put my six years up there up against anybody else's six years," Hill said in 2016, per MLive.com's Eric Woodyard.

    Because foot, ankle and knee injuries knocked Hill's career off course, casual NBA fans may have forgotten how formidable he was in his prime. Pistons diehards remember, though.

    He grabbed co-Rookie of the Year honors out of the gate (with Jason Kidd) after averaging 19.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals as a freshman. Only one rookie has ever matched that line: Michael Jordan.

    Hill kept climbing from there. He was an All-NBA second-teamer the following season and always had an All-NBA roster spot over his final five years in Detroit. His six-year averages there landed at 21.6 points on 47.6 percent shooting, 7.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.6 steals. He averaged at least 20 points, six assists and six rebounds four different times, tying him for the fourth-most such seasons in league history.

    Plus, it isn't as though he only had a cup of coffee in Detroit. He played 435 games for the Pistons, or only 47 fewer than Chauncey Billups, who had his jersey retired in 2016.

Tracy McGrady

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Tracy McGrady was ruthless.

    Another high-school-to-NBA jumper, he wasn't put into a featured role until his fourth season. In his sixth season, he secured his first scoring title. He had the point-producing ability of a dynamic wing scorer, but he could also operate as a jumbo-sized playmaker at 6'8" and 210 pounds.

    "The guy that always gave me the most problems was Tracy McGrady," Kobe Bryant said in 2013, via Dan Duangdao of Lakers Nation. "He had all the skills and all the athleticism, but he was 6'8" and he was very tough to figure out."

    Speaking of tough figure out, it's hard to say which of McGrady's jerseys should be taken out of circulation.

    While he played only four seasons for the Orlando Magic, he hit his statistical peak in Disney's home. He claimed both of his scoring titles there and walked away with per-game averages of 28.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Only four players—each a perennial All-Star—has averaged a 28/7/5 line during the 2000s.

    He played five-plus seasons with the Houston Rockets, but his body betrayed him late in his tenure. Still, he averaged at least 24 points, five rebounds and four assists during each of his first three years in Space City. Plus, he provided a career's worth of memorable moments there: 13 points in 35 seconds, demolishing Shawn Bradley, the improbable 22-game winning streak.

    There are arguments to be made for either spot, but luckily, we don't have to make that call. We just know at least one of McGrady's jerseys should be hanging somewhere.

Gary Payton

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    JOHN FROSCHAUER/Associated Press

    Conjure up a mental image of the Sonics, and there's a great chance Gary Payton is involved somehow.

    Maybe it's the trademark hard-nosed defense that earned him the nickname "The Glove." Or a perfectly placed lob pass to Shawn Kemp. Or Payton digging into the bag of tricks that helped him average 20-plus points seven different times.

    His fingerprints are littered across the franchise's record books. He's the high man in a number of categories including games (999), minutes (36,858), assists (7,384), steals (2,107) and win shares (123.8).

    It's worth noting all of these numbers came with a team that no longer has the same city or name. That's the reason Payton hasn't celebrated a jersey retirement yet.

    "I will not go to Oklahoma and retire my jersey there," Payton said at a Seattle awards ceremony in 2017, per Matt Calkins of the Seattle Times. "You guys were the ones with me every day."

    Payton eventually headed elsewhere, but not until he had invested 12-plus seasons with the organization. He made a Finals run with the 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers and then captured a ring with the 2005-06 Heat.

    But he'll always be associated with the Sonics, who drafted him second overall in 1990 and watched him become a Defensive Player of the Year, a nine-time All-Star and ultimately a Hall of Famer. If the Association makes it back to Seattle at some point, retiring Payton's No. 20 will be one of the first orders of business.


    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from Basketball Reference or NBA.com.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.


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