There are three franchises in the NBA that don’t have any retired jerseys hanging in the rafters. Note that this doesn’t include Orlando, which technically has one retired jersey, but it’s the no. 6 for its fans.
One of the three teams is the Memphis Grizzlies, but they won’t be on this list for much longer as they have planned to retire Tony Allen and Zach Randolph’s jerseys in the near future. Toronto also has no retired numbers, but the franchise has only been in existence since 1995; once Kyle Lowry retires, his no. 7 will presumably break the drought.
The last team with no retired numbers is unsurprisingly the Clippers. Donald Sterling doesn’t really seem like the sentimental type who would want to waste money by leaving a perfectly good jersey hanging unused. Steve Ballmer has been so focused on rebranding the Clippers and forging a new identity that recognizing the team’s history has sort of gone by the wayside.
That being said, there are certainly players who have earned historical recognition from the Clippers, and over the weekend, Ralph Lawler gave his top 5 selections for players whose numbers should be retired.
Elton Brand, Danny Manning, World B Free, Terry Cummings,— Ralph Lawler (@Ohmeomy) June 13, 2020
Bob McAdoo https://t.co/OhFNQhD61A
The first thing that jumps out from Lawler’s list is that it directly contradicts Doc Rivers’ wish that DeAndre Jordan will have the first jersey retired by the Clippers. Jordan has a longevity argument over each of these five, and he was part of a winning era as well, though that can be explained away by the quality of his teammates. However, it’s clear that Lawler was going for Clippers who were the best players on their teams, something Jordan never was.
Bob McAdoo and Elton Brand have the strongest cases among Lawler’s choices. Each is in the top 10 in franchise history in points, rebounds, blocks, and minutes played. They were both All-Stars with the Clippers (or Braves, in McAdoo’s case), and each is most closely associated with this franchise. For reference, we dove deeper into the career of every player on this list in our best player to wear each number series.
Terry Cummings and World B. Free were both excellent Clippers — they collectively hold four of the ten best scoring seasons in franchise history — but both played for the team for only two seasons. Even though Cummings was Rookie of the Year and Free was an All-Star in San Diego, neither of them even made the playoffs as Clippers, so it’s hard to agree that they deserve permanent recognition.
Danny Manning has the longevity of McAdoo and Brand but not nearly their level of production. He pops up on the franchise’s career leaderboards thanks to playing six seasons, but if he sets the bar for a retired jersey, the Clippers will have to clear a lot of room in their new arena.
My guess is the organization won’t retire any jerseys until they move to Inglewood. It doesn’t make much sense to try to carve out a piece of Staples Center when the Clippers have designs on creating their own home elsewhere, but an appropriate way to make Inglewood feel like a Clippers arena would be by recognizing the franchise’s greatest players.
After seeing Lawler’s list and going through the history of the team during the hiatus, I think McAdoo has the best case for being the team’s first retired jersey. Unless Kawhi Leonard wins a title and retires unexpectedly early, no player has the credentials of McAdoo. It also seems like best practice to start at the franchise’s beginnings and move forward.
Whose jersey do you think the Clippers should retire first? Let us know.