The Los Angeles Lakers officially retired two different jersey numbers for Kobe Bryant. So we looked at players who haven’t had the honor.
Even though some of these players are the best in their franchise’s history, we were surprised to learn how many of them did not yet have their number in the rafters yet.
Some may feel inevitable, though others will likely not happen if they had not already.
Bucks, Marques Johnson
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 8 for Milwaukee: Matthew Dellavadova (2017-18)
The only player who has a higher Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) with the Bucks is Sidney Moncrief.
Johnson was a four-time All-Star with the Bucks who also made the All-NBA 1st while on the team. He is a broadcaster for the organization and has spoken about his desire to have his jersey hanging in the rafters (via JSOnline.com):
“Who wouldn’t want their number retired? It would be a great honor to have the organization I broke in with afford me with that level of recognition. We were part of something special.”
He ranks Top 10 in franchise history in key stats like points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and field goal percentage as well as minutes and games played.
Bulls, Artis Gilmore
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 53 for Chicago: Joe Kleine (1997-98)
He is the franchise leader in blocks, field goal percentage and is third overall in VORP.
Gilmore made four All-Star games while on the Bulls and was also once named 2nd Team All-Defense. Even though he averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds per game while with the Bulls, he was surprised to be the in Hall of Fame (via Bleacher Report):
“Look at my career. None of the teams I played for ever retired my number. Why, then, would I be good enough to be in the Hall of Fame?”
However, Chicago rarely retires numbers and it’s a particularly prestigious honor for the Bulls.
Cavaliers, Hot Rod Williams
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 18 for Cleveland: Mike Miller (2014-15)
Williams, who was once named first-team All-Rookie, passed away in 2015. He ranks Top 5 in franchise history in games played, minutes played as well as offensive, defensive and total rebounds. He also ranks Top 5 in win shares and VORP and he is second overall in blocks.
Celtics, Kevin Garnett
No player has worn No. 5 for Boston since Garnett
Boston GM Danny Ainge said he wanted the organization to retire numbers for Garnett and Paul Pierce (via Boston Globe):
“If it were my decision, their numbers would be hanging in the rafters some day. Their legacy has been made here in Boston … The reaction should be a standing ovation for ten minutes.”
The team will retire Pierce’s number, and though Garnett wasn’t there for as long as Pierce, they may do the same for him.
Despite his relatively short tenure with the Celtics, he ranks in their Top 10 in franchise history for VORP. He is also Top 10 in blocks, fourth overall in player efficiency rating and second overall in defensive rebound percentage. Not to mention he won a championship in Beantown.
Garnett also recently told VICE Sports that he still roots for the Celtics.
Clippers, Elton Brand
No player has worn No. 42 for Clippers since Brand
Brand is a two-time All-Star and one-time 2nd Team All-NBA recipient. He was a longtime face of the franchise for the then-lowly Clippers. It would be unprecedented to retire a uniform for the organization (via SB Nation):
“So, for the Clippers, who have never honored a former player with a jersey retirement, why not make Elton the first? A legitimate star from a league perspective, who was the best player on one of the Clippers’ best teams ever—that guy’s jersey is definitely a candidate for the rafters.”
The issue, however, is Brand left the team after he recruited Baron Davis to Los Angeles.
Still, only two players in franchise history have played more minutes with the team than Brand. He ranks second overall in total rebounds, third overall in blocks, fourth overall in points scored and fifth overall in points per game and rebounds per game.
He ranks behind just Chris Paul in total win shares, PER and VORP for the Clippers.
Grizzlies, Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 3 for Memphis: Jordan Adams (2015-16)
Memphis recently announced they would retire a jersey for Tony Allen.
Even though Shareef Abdur-Rahim is a former All-Star for the Grizzlies who was also named first-team All-Rookie during his first professional season, Abdur-Rahim never played for Memphis. He was a centerpiece for Vancouver before the team relocated.
He now works in the front office for the Sacramento Kings and it doesn’t seem likely Memphis hangs his jersey in the rafters.
Hawks, Cliff Hagan
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 6 for Atlanta: Anthony Grundy (2005-06)
Kentucky Men’s Basketball has retired his jersey but the same has not yet been done by the Hawks. But he helped the team, then located in St. Louis, win a championship and was a five-time All-Star during his career there.
Hagan ranks Top 10 in franchise history in total rebounds and total assists. He is Top 5 in points scored and games played. Only two players have more win shares with the Hawks than Hagan.
Hornets, Larry Johnson
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 2 for Charlotte: Marvin Williams (2017-18)
He is a two-time All-Star with the Hornets who made 2nd Team All-NBA and was also Rookie of the Year. Johnson, currently an ambassador for the Knicks, is the franchise leader in offensive rebounds and second overall in total rebounds.
Johnson ranks Top 5 in points scored, minutes played and win shares. He is Top 10 in assists, steals, field goal percentage and player efficiency rating. The only player who has a higher VORP for the franchise is Gerald Wallace.
Heat, Eddie Jones
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 6 for Miami: LeBron James (2013-14)
Adi Joseph once wrote about his confusion as to why Shaquille O’Neal got his jersey retired by Miami before Jones (via Sporting News):
“The Heat, more than any other organization in sports, seem to make their retired jersey selections based on fame over any other reasonable framework. Eddie Jones and Glen Rice spent important, All-Star parts of their primes with this franchise but can’t get nods.”
The defensive-minded Jones is Top 5 in franchise history for both VORP and win shares. He is second overall in three-pointers made and is Top 10 in points scored, assists and steals.
The only players who logged more minutes per game for Miami are LeBron James and Jamal Mashburn.
Jazz, Andrei Kirilenko
No player has worn No. 47 for Utah since Kirilenko
Kirilenko is a former All-Star and All-Defensive NBA player with the Jazz who had a strong career with Utah. During the 2016 season, the franchise honored him during the second quarter of a game.
The only players with a higher VORP for the Jazz are John Stockton and Karl Malone.
Kings, Jerry Lucas
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 16 for Sacramento: Ben McLemore (2013-14)
Lucas is a six-time All-Star for the Kings who won the MVP of an All-Star game. He was a three-time 1st Team All-NBA player with the franchise and was also a Rookie of the Year. It’s worth noting, though, he never played for the Kings in Sacramento.
Still, he is the franchise leader with a whopping 19.1 rebounds per game and ranks second in franchise history in total rebounds. Only three players played more games for the team.
Knicks, Harry Gallatin
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 11 for New York: Frank Ntilikina (2017-18)
Gallatin was a seven-time All-Star who also made 1st All-NBA in his career with the Knicks. He holds a record for most consecutive games played and was born in New York.
Tom Haberstroh wrote about the strange decision of not having his jersey retired (via ESPN):
“In 1993, the Knicks organization retired the jersey of Gallatin’s longtime teammate Dick McGuire’s No. 15, which was already retired for Earl “The Pearl” Monroe six years earlier. Yes, the Knicks retired No. 15 twice without doing the same once for Gallatin, who ranks fourth in win shares in Knicks history.”
He is third overall in franchise history for rebounds per game and fourth in PER. Walt Frazier is the only player for the Knicks to have more offensive win shares.
Lakers, George Mikan
No player has worn No. 99 for Los Angeles since Mikan
Mikan never played in Los Angeles, but he had an impressive career for the Lakers. He won five titles, made four All-Star teams (including one MVP award during the game) and was 1st All-NBA six times in Minneapolis. He also coached the Lakers while in Minnesota for a season.
He ranks second overall in franchise history for PER and is the franchise leader in Win Shares per 48 minutes. He is also Top 5 in defensive win shares and points per game.
Magic, Anfernee Hardaway
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 1 for Orlando: Jonathan Isaac (2017-18)
Hardaway is in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame, but if they retired his jersey, it would be a tougher decision. Brian Schmitz wrote about why the team is hesitant (via Orlando Sentinel):
“He wasn’t here in Orlando long enough to become the first Magic player to have his number (1) retired. Not only did Hardaway play just five-plus seasons, but his career here ended in an ugly divorce. Orlando dealt a disgrunted Penny to the Phoenix Suns in the summer of ’99. It’s impossible to overlook that fact. Still, a player needs more longevity or loyalty with a team.”
However, he is the all-time franchise leader in steals per game and second overall in steal percentage. And though some say he didn’t play there long enough, he ranks Top 10 in total minutes played. Only two players in team history have more steals than he recorded and he also ranks Top 10 in total blocks.
Mavericks, Michael Finley
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 4 for Dallas: Quincy Acy (2016-17)
Finley is a two-time All-Star with the Mavericks and it’s possible his jersey will soon be retired if we are to believe hints (SB Nation):
“This one is pretty much a given at this point. When the Mavs drafted Dennis Smith Jr. this summer, he opted to wear No. 1 instead of No. 4, his number from college. Why? It seems Finley’s former number is now off limits. That’s not surprising, though. Finley played for the Mavs from 1996 to 2005 and was the heart and soul of the organization.”
He averaged 19.5 points per game as a player for Dallas and currently works for the team as an assistant vice president.
No one averaged more minutes per game during their career with the Mavericks than Finley.
Nets, Derrick Coleman
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 44 for Brooklyn: Bojan Bogdanovic (2016-17)
The former All-Star and Rookie of the Year for the Nets never played in Brooklyn, though that isn’t the same as other relocations considering the team changed to a nearby city and kept the core identity and name of the franchise. While Syracuse has retired his jersey (in the same state), the Nets have not yet made the decision to do the same.
Coleman is Top 5 for the Nets in blocks and total rebounds and Top 10 in scoring.
Nuggets, Marcus Camby
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 44 for Denver: Jusuf Nurkic (2016-17)
Camby was a Defensive Player of the Year for Denver and considered one of the better defenders in the league. He is another former basketball star who had his jersey from college retired but is still waiting for a similar nod from one of his professional teams. His best years came while he played for the Nuggets.
No one in team history has a higher defensive rebound percentage than Camby. He also has the third-highest block percentage, second-most blocks per game and third-highest defensive rating.
Dikembe Mutombo is the only player who recorded more blocks for the Nuggets than Camby. He also ranks Top 10 in VORP for Denver, ahead of Carmelo Anthony.
Pacers, Jermaine O’Neal
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 7 for Indiana: Al Jefferson (2016-17)
The six-time All-Star with the Pacers is a former Most Improved Player of the Year and once made 2nd Team All-NBA for Indiana. He spoke about his desire to have his number retired (via USA TODAY):
“I would like to think I’d be considered one of the best Pacers who ever played. Numbers don’t lie. If that’s the case [and the Pacers retire my jersey], great, and if not, I promise you I won’t be bitter about it because that experience, that situation got me to where I am now.”
He may not be considered due to his involvement in the historic brawl between his team and the Pistons, but numbers support his case: no one in franchise history has more blocks or blocks per game than O’Neal, who has the third-best defensive rating ever too.
Pistons, Grant Hill
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 33 for Detroit: Jonas Jerebko (2014-15)
Hill is another player who has spoken about his desire to have his number retired (via MLive.com):
“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.’ … I’ll put my six years up there up against anybody else’s six years. So if it’s meant to be, it happens. But if not, it doesn’t change how I feel about the place not one bit.”
Now a vice chairman of the board for the Hawks, Hill was a five-time All-Star during his career with Detroit. Only Bob Lanier had a higher PER for Detroit.
Raptors, Morris Peterson
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 18 for Toronto: Norman Powell (2017-18)
Peterson has his jersey retired by Michigan State Men’s Basketball but the same cannot be said for the Raptors.
He is second overall in team history for three-pointers made, behind just Kyle Lowry. The only player who has appeared in more games for the Raptors than him is DeMar DeRozan. Peterson also ranks Top 10 in rebounds and assists as well as Top 5 in points and steals.
Rockets, Tracy McGrady
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 1 for Houston: Trevor Ariza (2017-18)
Whether or not McGrady will have his jersey retired by the Rockets is one of the most polarizing questions in the NBA.
Tom Haberstroh provided more context for the situation in a recent column (via ESPN):
“According to league sources, the Rockets have made no plans to retire McGrady’s jersey in Houston, and revisiting that decision has been put on hold … Currently, Trevor Ariza has been wearing No. 1 for the Rockets over the past three seasons.”
While he was a star player for Houston, lack of team success hurts his case.
Stats-wise, though, he was phenomenal. He trails just Moses Malone and James Harden for points per game and is also Top 10 in franchise history in assists per game and minutes per game.
Sixers, Moses Malone
No player has worn No. 2 for Philadelphia since Malone
This situation is particularly strange because although the team has announced they would retire his number posthumously, they somehow haven’t followed through with the commitment. Malone, who passed away in 2015, was an NBA champ, Finals MVP and regular season MVP while with the Sixers.
Suns, Shawn Marion
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 31 for Phoenix: Jarell Eddie (2016-17)
Marion is a four-time All-Star who was an integral part of the team identity in Phoenix. Only recently retired, it seems likely that the Suns will decide to honor him eventually. However, it’s a surprise they let Jarell Eddie wear the same number considering he played just five games for Phoenix.
The underrated Marion is the overall leader in win shares, VORP and defensive rebounds for Phoenix. Marion also ranks second in minutes played, steals and rebounds with the organization.
Spurs, Artis Gilmore
No player has worn No. 53 for San Antonio since Gilmore
If the Bulls do not decide to show love to Gilmore, 68, there is still a chance that the Spurs hang his jersey in the rafters instead. In fact, he may have an even better chance with San Antonio.
Gilmore is the all-time leader in field goal percentage, true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage for the Spurs.
Thunder, Gary Payton
No player has worn No. 20 in franchise history for Oklahoma City
Gary Payton has made it clear that he does not want the Thunder to retire his jersey considering he never played a game for the team. The nine-time All-Star and former Defensive Player of the Year remains loyal to Seattle even though the SuperSonics relocated and became the Thunder.
Timberwolves, Kevin Garnett
No player has worn No. 21 for Minnesota since Garnett
Garnett, who won an MVP Award and made 10 All-Star appearances as a Wolf, should be considered a lock to get his jersey retired in Minnesota. However, it’s worth mentioning that he is reportedly not on great terms with the franchise.
In fact, he told VICE Sports that he doesn’t deal with their front office and thinks they suck.
It may not be a surprise if it takes longer than expected for Garnett to receive a call from the team about a ceremony, though team owner Glen Taylor says it’s an “open invite” for him to officially have a ceremony.
This may happen eventually considering how many categories he’s the all-time leader in for the organization. No player for the Timberwolves has more games played, minutes played, points, blocks, rebounds, assists, win shares and VORP than Garnett.
Trail Blazers, Rasheed Wallace
No player has worn No. 30 for Portland since Wallace
Wallace was a two-time All-Star for the franchise, though his time with the team was often referred to as the “Jail Blazers” due to their reputation. He does not have his jersey retired by the Detroit Pistons, either, where he had more success than he did with Portland.
He ranks Top 5 in franchise history for VORP as well as total and defensive win shares. He’s also Top 10 in total rebounds, blocks per game, minutes per game, games played and total points scored.
Warriors, Paul Arizin
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 11: Klay Thompson (2017-18)
Arizin played his entire career for the Warriors, though that happened in Philadelphia. The 10-time All-Star with the Warriors and one-time NBA champion passed away in 2006.
He’s the all-time franchise leader in offensive win shares and free throws made. He’s second only to Wilt Chamberlain in total win shares for the team. His PER is Top 10 in franchise history. Arizin is also Top 5 in points per game, tied with Stephen Curry.
Wizards, Gilbert Arenas
Most Recent Player to Wear No. 7: Sheldon Mac
While no other player in franchise history has worn No. 0, Rashard Lewis wore No. 9 the following season after Arenas sported it. Arenas was notably involved in a gun showdown with his former teammate Javaris Crittenton, which immediately complicated his relationship with the franchise.
He is their all-time leader in three-pointers made and he is Top 5 in PER, VORP and total win shares. Only Walt Bellamy scored more points per game for the Wizards than Arenas.
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