If you missed Andrew Unterberger’s look at which Eastern Conference jerseys might be retired in the future, check that out. Here are his picks for the Western Conference.
Already Retired: Brad Davis, Rolando Blackman
Definitely: Dirk Nowitzki
Possibly: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Michael Finley, Steve Nash
Maybe Someday: N/A
Analysis: Few organizations will have the number of tough decisions to make when it comes to jersey retiring in the near future than the Mavericks will. Dirk is the only clear-cut retiree — he’s the greatest player in Mavericks history, and the second he decides to take off his Dallas jersey for good, he may as well hand it directly to Mark Cuban for hoisting preparation. After that though, you have a lot of guys who had success as a Maverick, but spent important portions of their career elsewhere, including Dirk’s old Big Three buddies Michael Finley and Steve Nash, both of whom helped raise the franchise from laughing stock to contender, but went on to great success elsewhere, with Finley winning a championship in San Antonio and Nash becoming a two-time MVP in Phoenix.
Meanwhile, in Jasons Kidd and Terry, you have two guys who had their most prolific statistical seasons elsewhere — Kidd in NJ, Terry in Atlanta — but only won a championship in Dallas. Kidd has the benefit of being a two-time Mav, first helping to turn the team around in the mid-1990s and then providing one of the final pieces to the championship puzzle in the late-2000s, while Terry is the sentimental favorite for his fan-baiting antics and his consistently clutch play across eight seasons in Big D. Still, with only two numbers retired in 30-plus years of Maverick history, with such franchise leading lights as Derek Harper and Mark Aguirre being denied, none of these guys are necessarily shoo-ins.
If I had to guess, I’d say that Kidd and Terry do get immortalized for their role in the franchise’s first championship, while Nash and Finley are unfortunately (and perhaps unfairly) forgotten about. Don’t rule out the possibility of Deron Williams or Dwight Howard having their jerseys retired at the AAC before the end of this season, though. Mark Cuban is not above a couple shady recruiting tactics.
Already Retired: Alex English, David Thompson, Byron Beck, Dan Issel
Possibly: Carmelo Anthony
Maybe Someday: Nene, Danillo Gallinari
Long Shot: Andre Miller
Analysis: It’s hard to get a read on exactly what public sentiment towards Carmelo Anthony is now, or what it will be five years from now. He defined the last 10 years of basketball in Denver and is probably the best and most important Nugget since Alex English, but his Hall of Fame caliber Denver resume is overshadowed slightly by the Melodrama of 2010-11, which ended in Anthony forcing a trade to New York. I’d bet that Nuggets fans eventually remember the good times with ‘Melo as he didn’t burn his team as badly as LeBron did, and after his trade, the Nuggets were arguably better off for it for both the present and future. Still, his jersey retiring would not come without controversy, and thus might at least come a little later down the line than it otherwise might have.
As for the current Nuggs, there are a couple of players with a shot at one day getting canonized, starting with Nene and Danillo Gallinari, both of whom have signed deals to be in Less Big D long term, and might have some pretty impressive resumes by the time their stays in Denver are done. More intriguing to me, though, is the case of Andre Miller, a two-time Nugget who’s been awesome in both his runs, even though you’d never think of him as one of the definitive Nuggs of recent years. Probably won’t happen, but we’ll see where we’re at when the dust settles on ‘Dre’s time in Denver.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS:
Already Retired: Wilt Chamberlain, Tom Meschery, Al Attles, Rick Barry, Nate Thurmond,
Maybe Someday: Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry
Long Shot: Baron Davis
Analysis: The Warriors simply haven’t been in the jersey retiring business recently. It’s hard to believe that none of the Run TMC Warriors (Hardaway, Mullin, Richmond) deserved to have their jersey in the Oracle rafters, but with none of the three having played for Golden State for a decade, it’s hard to see what they’d be waiting for. In the meantime, with no jerseys going up in Oakland since Rick Barry was enshrined, it’s hard to picture any of the modern day Warriors being so honored. You feel like somebody from the Mavericks-upsetting ’08 team would have to get there, but the most likely guy of that bunch is probably Baron Davis, and since he only played for three-plus seasons before leaving for the Clippers, it’s hard to imagine him being canonized before Mullin or Richmond.
Of course, Golden State does have a couple franchise-type guys now in Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis, either of whom might be able to put up numbers to rank with the Warrior greats if they stay there long enough. But again, are these guys really gonna be the first Warriors in four decades to get up there? They might have to bring the franchise its first championship since ’75 to start that conversation, and, well…
Already Retired: Clyde Drexler, Calvin Murphy, Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Rudy Tomjanovich
Definitely: Yao Ming
Possibly: Tracy McGrady
Maybe Someday: N/A
Analysis: Even with the paucity of prior retired jerseys — five in about 40 years, with all but one of them Hall of Famers — Yao seems like a relatively safe bet for retirement, having played the entirety of his too-short NBA career as a Rocket and being one of the most dangerous and well-liked players over the course of his near-decade in the league. Tracy McGrady, despite being just as dangerous a player during his Rockets tenure, faces more of an uphill battle, due to the memory of his on-court accomplishments arguably being weaker than the memory of T-Mac’s playoff failures and his highly contentious final days in H-Town. He’s one of the two best Rockets of the post-Hakeem era, but I doubt his No. 1 goes up at the Toyota Center anytime soon.
As for current Rockets, maybe Kyle Lowry has a shot? Doubtful, as most of today’s Rockets are of the borderline All-Star variety, and so far only All-Star perennials have gotten raised in Houston.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS:
Already Retired: N/A
Maybe Someday: Blake Griffin, Chris Paul
Long Shot: Elton Brand
Analysis: I can’t believe it either. The Clippers don’t have a SINGLE retired number? It’s one thing for the Grizzlies or Bobcats, but the Clips have been around in some incarnation since 1970. It’s absolutely stunning that they’ve yet to retire a player’s jersey. Yeah, the Clips have been a historically shitty franchise, and they haven’t had a lot of players pass through their locker room that scream “Franchise Legend,” but c’mon. Danny Manning? World B. Free? At least get Bob McAdoo up there. The dude was an MVP for the Buffalo Braves back in the day and an eventual Hall of Famer. It’s certainly better than nothing.
All that said, it wouldn’t be shocking if the first Clipper to get his jersey retired was on their current roster. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the two guys that both give the Clips that headlining, franchise-defining player they’ve so badly lacked for most of their history, certainly would be likely candidates. The question is just if either will stick around long enough to merit it, since neither is locked up long term, and owner Donald Sterling isn’t generally the kind of guy players have readily committed to in the past. And the slight X-factor here is Elton Brand, a top 10 guy for much of his seven-year tenure with L.A.’s Other Team, but one whose rep was hurt by his bolting to Philadelphia as a free agent. He has a case, but probably not a good enough one to make him the Clips’ inaugural retiree.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS:
Already Retired: Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal (Pending), James Worthy, Jerry West, Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelsen, Slater Martin, Clyde Lovelette, George Mikan
Definitely: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol
Possibly: Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher
Maybe Someday: Andrew Bynum
Analysis: The only question with Kobe’s enshrinement is whether it will be for his No. 8, No. 24 or both. (Personally, I’m hoping for both. It makes sense, doesn’t it?) Seems that Pau Gasol, the second-best player on the three recent Finals teams and a likely Hall of Famer, should be something of a no-brainer himself.
It gets interesting, though, when discussing two other fixtures of recent years — Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher. Lamar was a devout Laker and fan favorite for seven seasons, and probably the third-most important player on those Finals teams, before being shipped away (twice!) last off-season, while Fisher has five rings to his credit and has made more big shots for the Lakers over the last 15 years than anyone not named Bryant. For most teams, these guys would be obvious retirees, but there’s already a lotta jerseys up there for LA, and a good number of key role players on past championship teams — Rick Fox, Robert Horry, A.C. Green, Byron Scott, Kurt Rambis — were never so honored.
The odds might ultimately be better for Andrew Bynum, another member of those Finals teams that didn’t necessarily contribute as much as Odom or (arguably) Fisher, but one whose story in L.A. still has a long way to go. Assuming he isn’t replaced by Dwight Howard in the next few months, anyway.
Already Retired: N/A
Possibly: Pau Gasol
Maybe Someday: Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen
Long Shot: Shane Battier
Analysis: No retired numbers yet for the Grizz, and despite his being their first real franchise player, it’s doubtful that Pau Gasol will be their first. Pau was never fully embraced by the Memphis fans the way some of their current guys are, never won a playoff series (or even a playoff game), and went on to such greater success in Los Angeles that sometimes you even forget he ever played for Memphis.
Rudy Gay fits the profile a little better, though he needs some playoff success to match his regular season stat-compiling, while Zach Randolph got the Grizz their first ever postseason series win, but needs some more years in Memphis to be a real franchise-defining player. And if Tony Allen plays for another half-decade in Memphis and helps them win some more in the playoffs, don’t be surprised if he becomes one of the first so honored.
The deep possibility here is two-timer Shane Battier, the only man to play on all four Grizzlies playoff squads, a big shot maker and a fan favorite. To have Shane Battier as your first and only retired number, though … seems kinda unlikely.
Already Retired: Malik Sealy
Definitely: Kevin Garnett
Maybe Someday: Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio
Analysis: It’ll be a race between the Wolves and Celtics to see who gets to retire Kevin Garnett’s jersey first once he retires — though he brought the Celtics their first championship in over 20 years, he played far longer and was probably more meaningful to the Timberwolves, for whom he easily ranks as the most important player in franchise history. He should become the first living player to have his number retired at the Target Center in just a couple years.
It’s a testament of sorts to the Kevin McHale era that nobody else from the KG days of Minnesota ball even stands a chance of having their number retired, but luckily for Kevin and company, there are two players currently on the roster that already seemed fast-tracked to the rafters: Kevin Love, who might merit consideration even if he blew out both ACLs tomorrow, and Ricky Rubio, who only a force as powerful as Jeremy Lin could prevent from being the toast of the NBA season. Still, maybe we should see how long both players stay in Minnesota — David Kahn hasn’t proven particularly adept at holding on to assets thus far in his Minnesota tenure — before prepping the honorary halftime ceremonies.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS:
Already Retired: Pete Maravich (played for the New Orleans Jazz), Bobby Phills
Definitely: Chris Paul
Possibly: Baron Davis
Maybe Someday: N/A
Analysis: Is Chris Paul really a definite retiree, after forcing a trade out of New Orleans? Maybe not, but you don’t get the sense that Hornets fans turned on CP3 after his departure. No one could really blame Paul for wanting a way out of the fucked up situation in the Big Easy, and if not for the way he revitalized the franchise in 2008, the Hornets would have been dead years ago anyway. The Hornets have never had a better player than Chris Paul, and it’s hard to imagine that his No. 3 won’t become their first non-posthumous jersey raising at some point.
Does Baron Davis, who made the playoffs in each of his five full seasons in Charlotte/New Orleans/Oklahoma City and was twice named an All-Star, stand a chance? Perhaps, but not a great one. It’s been a long time since Baron was a Hornet, and it seems like there’s a little too much water under the bridge now to make retirement likely. Beyond that? Well, I love Eric Gordon, but let’s see him play a full week of games for New Orleans before we start talking about jersey retiring.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER:
Already Retired: Gus Williams, Nate McMillan, Lenny Wilkens, Spencer Haywood, Fred Brown, Jack Sikma (all as Seattle SuperSonics)
Definitely: Kevin Durant
Maybe Someday: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka
Long Shot: Gary Payton
Analysis: Durant is in that Derrick Rose camp of “fuck longevity, this guy’s number is going up if he retires today,” and it’s similarly impossible to see him doing anything to destroy his relationship with the fans or franchise. Westbrook is almost there, and he has the contract extension to prove it, but his occasional contentiousness leaves the door open for him to have some in-franchise feud that mucks up the works for him retirement-wise. James Harden and Serge Ibaka are crowd pleasers that should see their numbers go to the rafters in OKC if they don’t bolt in free agency, and produce consistently for a winning team, all decently likely (though by no means guaranteed) circumstances.
Of course, getting screwed here is Payton, whose decade-plus as a Seattle SuperSonic (including eight All-Star appearances and 10 trips to the playoffs) should make his jersey retirement a non-issue. Except that his retirement coincided almost directly with the relocation of the franchise to OKC, and they don’t seem to like acknowledging the franchise’s Northwest history any more than absolutely necessary. Chris Webber was lamenting during a Kings TNT broadcast the other day about how GP “doesn’t have a home,” worrying he might suffer the same fate if the Kings move, and it is indeed a sad side effect of an already sad Seattle situation.
Already Reitred: Dick Van Arsdale, Walter Davis, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Tom Chambers, Alvan Adams, Charles Barkley, Connie Hawkins, Paul Westphal
Definitely: Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire
Possibly: Shawn Marion
Maybe Someday: N/A
Analysis: That’s a pretty long list of retired numbers for a franchise that’s never won a championship, so you have to think that both Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire, the twin pillars of their half-decade-plus of Western Conference contention, will be shoo-ins for US Airways immortalization. Shawn Marion may have a trickier path there, despite playing just as long in Phoenix as Nash or Amar’e and arguably being just (err, nearly) as important to the team’s success over that span, mostly due to his constant bellyaching about being perceived as a third option, leading to his trade to Miami in 2008. He’s got a real shot, but I wouldn’t be hugely surprised to see the Suns raise Nash and Amar’e (and possibly D’Antoni as well) and then call it a day. It’d be fitting for The Matrix, wouldn’t it?
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS:
Already Retired: Dave Twardzik, Lionel Hollins, Larry Steele, Maurice Lucas, Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Bob Gross, Bill Walton, Lloyd Neal, Geoff Petrie
Definitely: Brandon Roy
Maybe Someday: LaMarcus Aldridge
Analysis: No team has been more generous with the jersey-retiring than the Blazers, hanging the jerseys of just about everyone associated with the 1977 championship team from the Rose Garden rafters, down to the team waterboy and scoreboard operator. Brandon Roy never won a championship, but with injuries forcing his tragic retirement at the age of 27, it’s hard to imagine the Blazers not paying proper homage to the player who brought Portland out of the Jail Blazers era by putting his No. 7 in the rafters. LaMarcus is most likely to be the next in line, though he might need to win at least one playoff series in his time as a Blazer to build on the success that Roy raised the possibility of.
And Greg Oden … well, maybe they should just retire that guy’s jersey out of consolation. Something has to go right for this guy eventually.
Already Retired: Nate Archibald, Mitch Richmond, Chris Webber, Bob Davies, Maurice Stokes, Oscar Robertson, Vlade Divac, Jack Twyman, Sam Lacey
Possibly: Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby
Maybe Someday: Who knows?
Analysis: Yeah, that’s a surprisingly long list of names for a franchise without a great history of winning, but it might be a while before anyone adds to it. The retirement of Chris Webber and Vlade Divac’s numbers from the Rick Adelman era of extended Sacramento success leaves the door open for Peja Stojakovic and Mike Bibby to join them one day in the ARCO rafters, but neither are shoo-ins, and frankly, we don’t know how much longer the team is even gonna be in Sac-Town. Meanwhile, the Kings roster is littered with guys who could come to define the franchise in that eventual-jersey-retiring ways — Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmer Fredette — but the team might have to win more than 25 games in a season before such honors can be considered for any of those guys.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS:
Already Retired: Johnny Moore, Avery Johnson, Bruce Bowen, James Silas, Sean Elliott, George Gervin, David Robinson
Definitely: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker
Maybe Someday: N/A
Analysis: Anyone wanna argue with Duncan, Ginobili or Parker, considering that Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott and Bruce Bowen are all already in there? Didn’t think so. With those three in, though, that should close the books on the four-time champion Spurs. Helpful as Michael Finley, Stephen Jackson and Fabricio Oberto might have been to those title teams, Alamo immortality does not await any of them, and it’s hard to see any of the other guys on their current roster getting there without four more championships coming to San Antonio. 10 retired numbers is still pretty damn good for a post-merger ABA team, though.
Already Retired: Adrian Dantley, Pete Maravich, Larry Miller, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, Karl Malone, Darrell Griffith, Mark Eaton
Possibly: Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko
Maybe Someday: Paul Millsap
Analysis: Another team with a lot of hanged jerseys despite never having won a championship, which perhaps helps the chances of Deron Williams, who led the Jazz to the playoffs four straight years and was briefly considered the best point guard in the game, of getting up there, Still, his untimely exit from Salt Lake — he was traded halfway through 2010-11, after rumors of a feud with the just-fired Jerry Sloan and prognostication that D-Will would not resign in Utah — might mean that Andrei Kirilenko, a 10-year Jazzman without Deron’s gaudy stats but with a less-checkered PR reputation, actually has a better chance of becoming a Utah NBA immortal.
I’d say AK-47 gets it for sure for being there through the good times and bad, and Deron probably eventually will too for bringing the Jazz back to relevance in the post-Malone/Stockton era. Beyond that, it’s not impossible to see a route for gritty power forward Paul Millsap getting there, even ahead of the man he spent years understudying for, Carlos Boozer. Another five years of fine production in Utah, a little team success and the fan favorite should have a pretty compelling case.