From The Rafters: The NBA’s Definitive Retired Jersey List

By: 03.31.11  •  19 Comments

Dennis RodmanFor the athlete, there are very few awards that can compare to getting your number retired. It’s the ultimate sign of respect. Tomorrow, in what will surely be one of the greatest number-retiring ceremonies ever, the Detroit Pistons will retire Dennis Rodman‘s No. 10. Greg Monroe will continue to wear the number, but that’s beyond my care. I just want to see what the Worm does. With that in mind, I dug into some stats. We’ve done comprehensive lists like this before, most recently with the NBA’s Richest Players and the NBA’s Top 15 Expiring Contracts.

Now check out the stats on the NBA’s retired numbers:

Numbers That Have Been Retired The Most:

Nine Times

#32: Kevin McHale (BOS), Magic Johnson (LAL), Brian Winters (MIL), Julius Erving (NJ), Billy Cunningham (PHI), Bill Walton (POR), Sean Elliott (SAS), Fred Brown (SEA), Karl Malone (UTA)

Eight Times

#10: Jo Jo White (BOS), Bob Love (CHI), Dennis Rodman (DET), Tim Hardaway (MIA), Walt Frazier (NYK), Maurice Cheeks (PHI), Nate McMillan (SEA), Earl Monroe (WAS: then in BAL)

#22: Ed Macauley (BOS), Larry Nance (CLE), Rolando Blackman (DAL), Clyde Drexler (twice: POR, HOU), Elgin Baylor (LAL), Slater Martin (LAL: then in MIN), Dave DeBusschere (NYK)

#33: Larry Bird (BOS), Scottie Pippen (CHI), David Thompson (DEN), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (twice: LAL, MIL), Alonzo Mourning (MIA), Patrick Ewing (NYK), Alvan Adams (PHO)

Seven Times

#2: Red Auerbach (BOS), Alex English (DEN), Chuck Daly (DET), Junior Bridgeman (MIL), Malik Sealy (MIN), Moses Malone (PHI), Mitch Richmond (SAC)

#15: Tom Heinsohn (BOS), Brad Davis (DAL), Vinnie Johnson (DET), Earl Monroe (NYK), Dick McGuire (NYK), Hal Greer (PHI), Larry Steele (POR)

#24: Sam Jones (BOS), Rick Barry (GS), Moses Malone (HOU), Bill Bradley (NYK), Bobby Jones (PHI), Tom Chambers (PHO), Spencer Haywood (SEA)

Six Times

#1: Walter A. Brown (BOS), Oscar Robertson (MIL), Larry Weinberg (POR), Nate Archibald (SAC), Gus Williams (SEA), Frank Layden (UTA)

#4: Jerry Sloan (CHI), Joe Dumars (DET), Sidney Moncrief (MIL), Wendell Ladner (NJ), Chris Webber (SAC), Adrian Dantley (UTA)

#13: Wilt Chamberlain (three times: GS, LAL, PHI), Bobby Phills (NOH), Dave Twardzik (POR), James Silas (SAS)

#14: Bob Cousy (BOS), Tom Meschery (GS), Jon McGlocklin (MIL), Lionel Hollins (POR), Oscar Robertson (SAC), Jeff Hornacek (UTA)

#23: Lou Hudson (ATL), Frank Ramsey (BOS), Michael Jordan (twice: CHI, MIA), Calvin Murphy (HOU), John Williamson (NJ)

Oddest Retired Numbers/People:

Microphone: Rod Hundley (UTA), Bob Blackburn (SEA), Dave Zinkoff (PHI), Chick Hearn (LAL), Johnny Most (BOS)

LOSCY: Jim Loscutoff (BOS)- wanted other players to wear his #18

77: coach Jack Ramsay- represents the 1977 Portland championship

Joe Proski- trainer for the Phoenix Suns

832: Cotton Fitzsimmons (PHO)- number of wins as an NBA coach

613: Red Holzman (NYK)- number of wins as an NBA coach

John Kundla- head coach of Minneapolis Lakers

529: Bobby Leonard- his wins as the Indiana Pacers head coach

CD: Carroll Dawson- assistant coach and GM in Houston

Jack McCloskey- GM of the Detroit Pistons

William Davidson- owner of the Detroit Pistons

432: Doug Moe- his wins as the Denver Nuggets head coach

Jerry Krause- GM of the Chicago Bulls

Phil Jackson- head coach of the Chicago Bulls

6: for the fans of the Orlando Magic and the fans of the Sacramento Kings

Teams With The Most Retired Jerseys:

Boston: 23*

L.A. Lakers: 14

Phoenix: 11

Portland: 11

Sacramento: 10

Detroit: 10

Teams With Zero Retired Jerseys:

Charlotte, L.A. Clippers, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Toronto

Which Decade Had the Most Players Who Went on to Have Their Jersey Numbers Retired? (if applicable, most players were kept to their best decade):

1950s: 16 players

1960s: 28 players

1970s: 62 players

1980s: 44 players

1990s: 31 players

2000s: 3 players

Retired numbers broken down by position:

69 guards (29 PG, 40 SG)

55 forwards (25 PF, 30 SF)

35 centers

*Boston has 21 retired numbers in 65 years of existence. If they keep up this pace (retiring a number every 3.1 years), they will run out of numbers (#00-99) in 2259.

What can you take away?

  • The wing players are either more celebrated (wings account for 70 retired numbers themselves), more showcased as players or the NBA just has a history of better players at those positions.
  • If you want your jersey retired, don’t choose a number over 33.
  • The 1970s has by far the players with the most retired numbers, and are the perfect mix, combining the talent of later decades with the history of the earlier decades.
  • You could create a couple of unbelievable starting lineups from some of the most retired numbers: (#32: Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Karl Malone, Kevin McHale, Bill Walton), (#33: Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, David Thompson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Ewing)
  • The NFL has 138 retired jersey numbers. MLB has 164 retired jersey numbers. The NBA has 184 retired jersey numbers.

Which current players will have their jersey numbers retired?

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