Candidates to be Honored by an NBA Franchise Next: Eastern Conference Teams

Candidates to be Honored by an NBA Franchise Next: Eastern Conference Teams

With news breaking that Charles Barkley will be getting a statue outside of the Philadelphia 76ers’ practice facility breaking this week, one thing has been on my mind and that is “Who else will get a statue? Who else deserves to get their jersey retired?” There are a lot of stars that deserved to be recognized by their former teams and with the Barkley announcement it got me thinking about the possibilities of each team and who’s up next to be immortalized by a franchise in different capacities. Here, we will look at possible candidates for both possibly getting their jersey retired, as well as candidates for statues and how high their chances are. In this article, we focus on the Eastern Conference teams. 

*Note that the Charlotte Hornets franchise is not covered due to complications revolving around the fact that it can be argued that their lineage revolves around the Charlotte Bobcats rather then the Hornets. This further complicates things when considering the New Orleans Pelicans who I would argue carry the actual lineage of the former Charlotte Hornets. Therefore, both teams are omitted in this article.*

Boston Celtics

The Celtics and Lakers probably have the most jerseys retired out of anyone so there may not be much there but for some reason, they only have a Bill Russell statue compared to the many that the Lakers have. Surely someone else deserves one too right?

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Antoine Walker, Danny Ainge

I don’t consider Garnett a Celtic but they love him there and with an NBA Championship in 2008 and a Defensive Player of the Year Award the same year, Garnett is loved by all of Boston and that’s a fact. I could definitely see him getting his jersey retired, though I wouldn’t agree with it. I think Antoine Walker deserves it more as though there wasn’t a crazy amount of success during his tenure, he put up All-Star numbers for years and helped Paul Pierce become the player that he did. Some teams retire former All-Stars jerseys just because of reasons like this, so I would consider it. Sadly, Garnett has a better chance than Walker.

It’s tough to say about Rondo, but Boston fans love that 08-13 team and because of that I could see him getting his jersey retired with the only team that could stand him longer than two seasons. In the case of Danny Ainge, first of all he was there for awhile, won a couple of titles, and then eventually came back as a GM and won another. Teams retire front office personnel and coaches’ “jerseys” all the time. When you consider this, there’s no reason why Ainge doesn’t get his retired.

Candidates for Statues: Larry Bird, John Havelick, Bob Cousy, Paul Pierce

Of all the franchises that don’t have statues, the Celtics not having any outside the arena makes the least sense. All four of these guys should have one. Bill Russell technically has one at the Boston City Hall Plaza, so he’s good but the fact that Bird at least doesn’t have one is baffling.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets don’t have a great history. Most of their players didn’t play in New Jersey or Brooklyn very long, or they received stars that were better known playing for someone else (This is the case for the Mavericks and Heat as well). 

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Brook Lopez and Richard Jefferson.

Brook is the all time leader in points and blocks. Plus, he played while they were in New Jersey and Brooklyn. It may seem premature, but believe me, Lopez has earned it. Though Jefferson was good, I don’t think he did enough for the Nets to warrant a jersey retirement.

Candidates for Statues: Jason Kidd

If anyone gets a statue, Kidd deserves it. I consider Julius Erving more of an all time 76er, so I think Kidd would be the go-to in the case of a statue in Brooklyn. He embodied the Nets for the longest time when they were in Jersey and even coached them in Brooklyn. He was the best point guard in the league when he was in his prime with Jersey and even took the Nets to two back-to-back Finals appearances. The Nets don’t have a great history but there was one bright spot in the history of this franchise and that was Jason Kidd. Give this man a statue. 

Jason Kidd led the Nets to two back-to-back NBA Finals Appearances in 2003 and 2003.
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New York Knicks

The fact that they don’t already have Bernard King’s jersey retired surprises me. You can’t argue longevity with me because King basically got into the Hall of Fame because of his seasons with Knicks even though his prime was pretty short because of his injuries. With this considered, he should have his jersey retired.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Bernard King, Carmelo Anthony, Charles Oakley, Richie Guerin, Carl Braun, Willie Naulls, Allan Houston

Love or hate Melo, he should have his jersey retired with two franchises, the Knicks and the Nuggets. He won’t get a statue for either though sadly as both tenures ended on a sour note. Charles Oakley just meant a lot to that 90s team. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got his jersey retired. His overall toughness represented the Knicks even if he wasn’t necessarily the best player on the team. 

For some reason, the Knicks don’t respect their stars from the 50s and 60s (despite retiring Dick McGuire’s jersey), but make no mistake about it, Guerin, Braun, and Naulls all deserve it as they kept the Knicks relevant early on in the franchise’s history with their All-Star level play. Though I always loved Allan Houston, those injuries that ruined his career and the cap space that his contract ate up during that time frame of missed games kind of ignited the dumpster fire that the Knicks became in the mid 2000s. Don’t expect Houston’s jersey to hang from the rafters anytime soon.

Candidates for Statues: Willis Reed, Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier

This is just like the Celtics situation as they don’t have any statues despite their storied history. When you take a look at the history of the Knicks, I would say three statues are necessary. If I were to pick one, it would be Ewing but Reed and Frazier brought them two titles, so there’s that.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philly has retired the right jerseys already so there are only a few leftovers.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Andre Iguodala, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons

Iggy was the franchise player after Iverson left and though they didn’t have great success with him, they were always competitive with him at the top. They were an underdog team but you could never count them out because of Iggy’s ability to get everyone involved, with many calling him the poor man’s LeBron (that being a compliment). He definitely has a shot. We’ll have to see how these next couple of years go for Philly because if they continue to improve and get further into championship contention, there’s a chance that Embiid and Simmons will both be remembered forever in 76ers lore.

Candidates for Statues: Allen Iverson

They already have statues of Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, and eventually Barkely all in the area. The only person left is the ultra-cool, former MVP, Allen Iverson. This will definitely happen in the future.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors haven’t been a franchise for too long so this one is a little easier to pinpoint.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Kawhi Leonard

Vince Carter put the Raptors on the map. He deserves it. He’s the best Raptor in franchise history. Though his tenure ended on a bad note, time heals all wounds. Once he retires, you’ll see that jersey in the rafters. If Bosh would’ve stayed a couple more years, he’d be a shoe-in, but since he went to Miami, for some reason he’s remembered that way, even though he was his absolute best in Toronto, among other things. He doesn’t have a great shot. 

Chris Bosh is one of the best players in Raptors history.
Featured Photo Credit: Chris Young/CP

Lowry and DeRozan both deserve it and both will get it. Kawhi only spent one season with Toronto. It wouldn’t be fair to the others mentioned if they didn’t get their jerseys retired before him. Otherwise, it shouldn’t be considered. Getting your jersey retired by a franchise is an accomplishment that requires years of servitude and dedication. You can’t do that after one season, despite winning a championship.

Candidates for Statues: Vince Carter, Kyle Lowry

Carter deserves it. He was their first superstar. Lowry is the best point guard in franchise history, as weird as that seems, and he brought them their first championship. He deserves one too. If I had to choose one though, it would still be Carter.

Chicago Bulls

Chicago has been particularly stingy when retiring jerseys despite the amount of long tenured players and All-Stars that they’ve had.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Dennis Rodman, Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Horace Grant, Jimmy Butler

The Rodman that everyone knows and loves hit his stride with the Bulls. He was just a big of a part as those later championship teams than anyone. He should get it. Plus, no one deserves to wear number “91” ever again. Though Derrick Rose’s tenure was ruined by injuries, he still managed to be the best player in the league at one point just at the age of 22. If not for those injuries, The Bulls could’ve had a title or two, and Rose might have even been a perennial MVP candidate and Hall of Fame level player. Though it was short, no one should wear the classic number “1” again. People have tried but decided against it out of respect for Rose.

There are also the long-tenured players such as Hinrich, Deng, and Noah who helped the Bulls become relevant again and were a huge part of the Bulls’s teams in the 2000s, especially “Captain Kirk” who bridged the gap from the “Baby Bulls” era into the “Derrick Rose” era. Personally, I think they should all get their jerseys retired as they embodied that rough and tough Chicago style that has been missing since the 90s. Horace Grant has a decent argument but I don’t think he’ll get it compared to Rodman. Butler is a bit of an issue because he turned into a star with the Chicago, but then his attitude was in question to the point that they traded him when he was considered a top ten player in the league. Unless he comes back to Chicago before his career ends, I don’t see him being remembered so highly.

Candidates for Statues: Derrick Rose

Jordan has a statue. Pippen has a statue. Rose deserves one. There have only been two different players that have carried the MVP trophy in the history of the franchise: Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose. Hopefully, the United Center will give him this honor once he retires.

Cleveland Cavaliers

There hasn’t been too much success in the history of the Cavaliers as they have only had one championship, but there are still some players that will be recognized that haven’t been already. Unfortunately, they’re all still active.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao

LeBron will obviously have his jersey retired without question. Varejao will get his on tenure alone. Kyrie might be the only question as though he was huge in bringing the championship title to Cleveland, he forced a trade a year later. It may be a little sour since his tenure was short, but this will be another case of a “time heals all wounds” thing. Kyrie will get his jersey retired. Unless Colin Sexton does a great job wearing the number “2” jersey. Then, we might have a problem on our hands.

Candidates for Statues: LeBron James

He’s the only person who deservedly should have a statue outside the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. If Kyrie stayed, he might have had one too, but he lost that chance with the trade to the Celtics.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons have retired most of the important players to their championship teams but not everyone from their franchise history.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Grant Hill, Andre Drummond, Rasheed Wallace, George Yardley, Andy Phillip, Mel Hutchins, Larry Foust

When Grant Hill was looked at as a transcendent superstar, he was Detroit, but injuries ravaged him as he forced himself to Orlando. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to get his jersey retired. If Drummond continues to put up numbers with Detroit for awhile (he’s still very young), he can definitely do it. The only thing stopping him from breaking franchise records is a potential rebuild which could happen if Detroit keeps losing. I consider Rasheed more of an all-time Blazer, as that was his prime, but just how Kevin Garnett was with the Celtics, Rasheed was arguably the most important part to that Detroit team of the mid 2000s. He has a great shot. 

Detroit should honor their entire history, so there’s no reason as to why they haven’t retired the foursome of Yardley, Phillip, Hutchins and Foust’s jerseys when they led the Fort Wayne Pistons to two back-to-back appearances in the finals in 1955 and 1956.

Candidates for Statues: Isiah Thomas, Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups

If we can only have one, it shouldn’t be an argument. Isiah Thomas needs a statue outside of the Little Caesars Arena. Though Chauncey was the leader of that mid 2000s team, I would vote for Big Ben to have a statue just because it would just flat-out look a lot cooler.

How cool would a Ben Wallace statue be? Right?
Featured Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Allsport

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers may have a better history with the ABA and though they honor most of the players, they’re still missing some. You also have to really consider the players they’ve had in recent times.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Paul George, Jermaine O’Neal, Danny Granger, Don Buse, Freddie Lewis, Rik Smits, Ron Artest

The Pacers’ two greatest point guards in Freddie Lewis and Don Buse, despite helping the franchise win their only group of titles, have not yet been honored. Lewis may have a better shot than Buse though if you were to compare individual accomplishments. Rik Smits played his entire career with Indiana and was a huge part of their 90s dominance. He should definitely be considered. He might have a better chance then Jermaine O’Neal, who was looked as the future of the franchise but dealt with too many injuries before being traded to Toronto. He was the main reason the Pacers transitioned so well from Reggie Miller to Danny Granger however, and he should be recognized as such. Granger was a great individual player but he didn’t bring the Pacers to too much success when he had the keys to the franchise. 

Paul George wasn’t with Indiana for as long as they would’ve liked him to be, but he helped the Pacers return to the top of the Eastern Conference and at was (still is) considered to be among the best in the league. He’s got a great shot (though would they retire “24” or “13”?). Ron Artest has zero chances. Though he was great with Indiana, the “Malice in the Palace” basically ruined the franchise’s title hopes and put them on a downward spiral that took them awhile to recover from. You can literally track all of Indiana’s problems back to Artest, so he’s got no shot.

Candidates for Statues: Reggie Miller, George McGinnis

There are two superstars that embody the success of the Indiana Pacers franchise. If anyone is getting a statue to represent this franchise, it’s Miller and/or McGinnis.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks haven’t too many stand out superstars, but they’ve had a lot of solid All-Stars in their history so it begs the question how many deserve to have their jerseys retired.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Terry Cummings, Paul Pressey, Michael Redd, Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen, Khris Middleton

If Giannis continues on his path of destruction along with Khris Middledton, they’ll both have their jerseys retired. Cummings and Pressey were both productive players during their time, but I’m not sure if it was enough to be honored forever. Michael Redd is in the same boat as Danny Granger, as they both had great individual seasons, but not much team success followed. Injuries ruined both players as well, so we never got to see what they could’ve really become. You can go either way with Redd. Robinson and Ray Allen also represent a big part in the last truly “great” team Milwaukee had until Giannis stepped into the building. They both have solid chances, more so than Redd, Cummings, or Pressey.

Candidates for Statues: Oscar Robertson, Giannis Antetokounmpo

Kareem was more of a Laker so Oscar should definitely be immortalized as one of the very few that was able to bring the sole championship in franchise history to town. Again, if Giannis continues his path, he’ll be getting bronzed once he retires too.

Atlanta Hawks

Most of Atlanta’s history consists of consistent playoff success but only one NBA Championship. So the players listed may surprise some of you.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Cliff Hagan, Al Horford, Joe Johnson, Steve Smith, Jeff Teague, Josh Smith, Trae Young

Hagan was a huge part of the early teams with Bob Petit and was a legend in his own right. There’s no reason why he hasn’t had his jersey retired. Petit was fantastic but he didn’t do it by himself. Al Horford was a mainstay for Atlanta for most of his career. He was the good guy, All-Star, and team captain that never complained. He will definitely be remembered forever in Atlanta. Joe Johnson was probably Atlanta’s best player since Dominique. It saddens me how his tenure was forgotten despite how good he used to be. It will take awhile, but he’s got a shot. Steve Smith was solid for Atlanta in the 90s but he didn’t do enough to really get this type of honor. The same could be said of Josh Smith, but he was more just wasted potential. Jeff Teague is one of Atlanta’s best point guards in franchise history, which isn’t saying much, but he won’t go down as a legend among Hawks. It’s too early to tell right now, but if Trae Young and John Collins bring a successful new era into Atlanta basketball, they could reach this level.

Candidates for Statues: Bob Petit

They already gave Dominique a statue so why not give the guy that was able to give the Hawks their only title in franchise history in Petit? Come on people!

Miami Heat

For an expansion team, Miami has done pretty well for themselves.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem

They retired Michael Jordan’s jersey and he never even played for them. LeBron is getting his retired. Wade’s jersey retirement is obvious and Haslem will get his as well, just like Anderson Varejao, based off tenure.

Candidates for Statues: Dwyane Wade

They referred to the area as “Wade County”. Oh yeah, he’s getting a statue.

Orlando Magic

Despite the exciting and short history of the Magic franchise, they don’t have any jersey numbers retired, much-less statues.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Tracy McGrady, Penny Hardaway, Dwight Howard, Nikola Vucevic, Shaquille O’Neal, Nick Anderson, Hedo Turkoglu, Dennis Scott, Scott Skiles

There is one huge issue. Tracy McGrady and Penny Hardaway were at the top of their games and considered the best in the league at their position when with the Magic, but they both wore number “1”. The Magic front office would have to decide which player was more important to the franchise or which player deserves to be remembered forever as a member of the Magic and that would be a tough decision to make. Either they would have to retire a jersey twice, which has never happened before, or just forget about it entirely since both tenures were rather short-lived. I predict that one of them will get it retired though. Hardaway probably has a better chance though because McGrady has a chance to get his retired by Houston. 

Dwight definitely deserves it too. He was the best center of the league for a good five years, no question. Yeah his last year or so seemed to be the definition of burning a bridge, but the case of “time heals all wounds” again is the case here. The nickname of “D12” will be remembered fondly for many years to come once Dwight retires. There are also fan favorites like Turkoglu, Scott, Anderson, and Skiles that all should be considered with Turkoglu having the best chance because of his role in the late 2000s team.

Nikola Vucevic has a great shot considering he’s been the star for the Magic since Dwight has left. Coming off his first All-Star year, a playoff appearance, and a new contract, his tenure might make him a shoe-in for his jersey to be one of the very few that could be hanging from the rafters of the Amway Center. Shaquille O’Neal was Orlando’s first superstar ever and was able to bring the team to one of the only two Finals appearances in franchise history. Shaq might be the only person with his jersey retired with three different franchises (and deservedly so).

Candidates for Statues: Dwight Howard, Shaquille O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Penny Hardaway

McGrady and Hardaway’s tenures are not statue worthy. It’s really between Shaq and Dwight. This may be controversial but I think Dwight deserves it more, if they were to pick between the two.

Washington Wizards

Washington has an underrated history of players, but you can argue that a lot of them aren’t necessarily “worthy” of such an honor.

Candidates for Jersey Retirement: Walt Bellamy, Gilbert Arenas, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Jeff Malone, Caron Butler, Antwan Jamison

Bellamy should have his jersey retired no question. Arenas is synonmous with “0” as “Agent Zero” was one of the coolest nicknames-related-to-a-jersey ever. Unfortuanely, that old gun incident that ruined his career, along with injuries, may have been enough to ruin that chance. Butler and Jamison were good for the Wizards and Malone when they were the Bullets, but they’re not on that level. Bradley Beal might be in the same boat, but can push past this if he stays with the team long-term, which I don’t think he will. 

Candidates for Statues: Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Earl Monroe, John Wall

Unseld and Hayes brought the only championship in franchise history so they have the best shot. Monroe’s tenure was too short. If Wall is able to stay with this franchise like he plans too, he has a shot, but he’s going to need a lot more playoff success.

Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes were able to bring a championship to the Bullets/Wizards franchise in 1978.
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