Home Sports The world of retired numbers: legends, presidents, hobbies…

The world of retired numbers: legends, presidents, hobbies…

The world of retired numbers: legends, presidents, hobbies...

No one else will wear Pau Gasol’s number 16 on the Lakers. His shirt, the one he wore with the franchise between 2008 and 2014 (two rings, won in 2009 and 2010), will rise to the roof of the crypto.com Arena, which for many continues and will remain the Staples Center, along with those of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, that Kobe Bryant who is the only player with two numbers (8 and 24) retired by the same franchise… The list, in which Gasol will be the thirteenth player, it sends chills of sheer grandeur and includes many of the greatest players in NBA history. Also, as a fourteenth honorary, to Bill Russell, arch enemy of the Angelenos in their wonderful years with the Celtics (the only player in history with eleven rings) and whose number 6 was retired by the NBA globally, in all its franchises, after his death on July 31. That Lakers list, finally, includes a mention, though obviously without a number, for announcer Chick Hearn (died 2002), the voice of Lakers games for 41 years with a record 3,338 consecutive broadcasts since 1965.

The first numbers retired by the Lakers were those of Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor, in a joint ceremony on November 9, 1983. Ten days later, the same was done with Jerry West, the player whose silhouette is the NBA logo. The three formed the big three who touched the ring in 1969 (3-4 against the Celtics, of course, after leading 3-2). In the 1971-72 season, Baylor folded after just nine games. The Lakers won 69, still their best mark and at that time the best in the NBA, their first ring in Los Angeles (they had arrived in 1960 from Minneapolis) and what is still a league record: 33 consecutive games. West and Chamberlain were still on that team along with Gail Goodrich (her jersey was retired in 1996) and, among others, Pat Riley, who would later become a legendary coach in the 1980s, the years of the showtime.

The terrible misfortune of Ace Bailey

For a player, having his shirt removed, no one else wearing the number he wore during his time in a franchise, is the highest individual honor in American sports. Something that also multiplies its value if, as in the case of Pau Gasol, that institution is one like the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, the Angelenos, thanks to their exceptional history, are the franchise with the second most retired numbers in the NBA behind their great rival, those Boston Celtics who are 24 and who equal titles with them: 17. The next most, Golden State Warriors, has seven. The Celtics are also ahead if you count all of American sports. On the opposite side, there two teams without any retired own number in the NBA, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers.

Where does this way of paying tribute to franchise legends come from, which is a common denominator from basketball, baseball and football? soccer even sports like cricket? The first case, the one that started the tradition, He arrived in ice hockey (NHL) with Canadian Irvine Wallace ‘Ace’ Bailey, whose number 6 was retired in 1934 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he developed his career between 1926 and 1933. Bailey, who died in 1992 at the age of 88, had to leave hockey due to head injuries he suffered in a fight during a game between his team and the Boston Bruins. The Maple Leafs had until 2016 a policy whereby they only withdrew numbers of players who had had to end their careers due to injuries sustained in matches or accidents. So until seven years ago they had only removed that 6 from Bailey and the 5 from Bill Barilko, also Canadian, who disappeared on a fishing trip with his dentist in 1951. Eleven years later they found themselves, in the lakes north of Quebec, the remains of the plane in which they were traveling.

Some teams have retired the numbers 12 and 6 in homage to their fans: the player number 12he sixth man… in the case of 6, there are the Sacramento Kings and the Orlando Magic, which also has no more retired numbers. In the case of 12, the most important example is the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, whose fans are precisely called ‘The 12’s‘. Other special cases have to do with tragedies that have marked the cities where the franchises play. The NHL achieved in 2017, an old desire, to have a team in Las Vegas: Vegas Golden Knights. On October 1 of that year, a shooter killed 58 people. That number, 58, was retired in 2018 by the Golden Knights in tribute to those who died during that tragic day in the city..

Bourque’s award at Boston Bruins

Sometimes, of course, issues that are currently in circulation are withdrawn. In many of them, the player currently wearing it is allowed to continue using it until they leave the team. Although this can choose to change and not interfere in the narrative. When Bill Russell passed away and the NBA announced that his number 6 would be retired globally by all 30 franchises, it was left to be worn by those who were wearing it at the time. LeBron, for example, continues to wear it on the Lakers, where he started out wearing 23, the other number he’s worn in his NBA career. To avoid this interference, many times the number is removed informally before the official withdrawal. The Lakers did it with Saquille O’Neal: no one wore the 34 since the center left in 2004 until the retirement ceremony took place in 2013.

The concession is sometimes made with the greatest pomp. Boston Bruins (NHL) retired Phil Esposito’s number 7 in 1987. The player who was wearing it at the time, also captain and star of the team, Ray Bourque, skated across the track, took off his jersey with the 7 and gave it to Esposito. Underneath, Bourque wore the 77, which would be his new number and which, in addition, the Bruins retired in his honor in 2001.

The history of American sports has, of course, given room for many curious number withdrawals. Like the 48 from the University of Michigan in honor of Gerald Ford, whose merits did not come in the fields of soccer but in the offices: he became the 38th president of the United States. In very special cases, the universities have decided to withdraw a number in all their sports disciplines. The best known is from Jackie Robinsonthe player who broke the color barrier in professional baseball (with the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1947) and whose 42 may not be worn on any UCLA team. Robinson’s gigantic legend goes further, of course: his 42 is retired in all MLB teams but there is a day, April 15 (anniversary of his historic debut with the Dodgers) in which everyone in the League ( players, coaching staff…) wear the 42 in all the games that are played.

From technicians to Jordan’s surprising 23 in Miami

Outside the United States, the removal of jerseys is a practice inherited and uncommon. But there is, for example, the case of Milan, which pushed away Baresi’s 6 and Maldini’s 3… unless one of the latter’s sons wants to use it if he makes it to the team rossonero. In selections, FIFA did not allow Argentina to withdraw Maradona’s 10 or the Netherlands to do the same with Cruyff’s 14. He didn’t even let Cameroon retire Marc-Vivien Foé’s number after he died during a match against Colombia in the 2003 Confederations Cup. They did retire Foe’s 23, however, Manchester City (his team at the time of his tragic death), Lyon (who had loaned him to the Premier) and Lens, the club where he had been raised. In basketball, FIBA ​​allowed Germany to retire (during the last Eurobasket) Dirk Nowitzki’s number 14.

One of the most curious cases in the NBA is the Miami Heat with the number 23, retired in tribute to Michael Jordan although he never played for the Florida franchise. The ceremony took place on April 11, 2003, when Jordan last visited Miami as a rival, with the Washington Wizards. It’s not the only one eccentricity of the Heat, who also have retired 13 by Dan Marino, the legendary quarterback of the Dolphins, the Miami NFL team. If Jordan never played for the Heat, the unforgettable Pete Maravich, pistol, did not go through the Pelicans, but his number 7 is the only one retired by the franchise beyond the 6 in tribute to Bill Russell. Maravich himself was a legend in New Orleans because of his legendary college stretch at LSU and his years in the city… but when the Jazz still played there, who later went to Salt Lake City.

One last curious case is that of legendary coaches, who are usually honored with the number of victories they achieved with the team in question. That is why the Nuggets have retired the 432 as a memory of Doug Moe, one of the coaches with the most offensive and fun style in all of NBA history. The Pacers withdrew, for the same reason (number of victories), the 529 by Bobby Slick Leonard, who won three titles for the franchise, all in the ABA, before an NBA in which Leonard had a negative balance as a coach. Higher is the 613 that the Knicks raised to Madison by a Red Holzman who, in addition to all those games, was the coach of the two titles that the franchise has won (1970 and 1973). And, even more, the 1,223 from the Utah Jazz to Jerry Sloan, the fourth winningest coach in NBA history and the one who led the Jazz between 1988 and 2011. The Blazers chose 77 for Jack Ramsay, the year of the only title (1977) that the franchise has won, with him as coach and Bill Walton as MVP. And to the great Chuck Daly, the Pistons dedicated number 2 to him because they won their first two titles with him, those of the mythical bad boys (1989, 1990).

One last curious reason to remove a seemingly strange number: the 455 in the Cleveland Guardians (formerly Indians) of the MLB. The reason? The team opened the Jacob Field stadium in 1994 and between 1995 and 2001 it linked 455 games with a full house in the stands, without a single ticket to sell. At that time, an absolute record that in 2008 was broken by the Boston Red Sox.

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