Celtic Case

NBA teams retired numbers: They will run out right?

http://www.nba.com/celtics/history/RetiredNumbers.html

The Boston Celtics has an awful lot of retired numbers. If teams keep having great players who'll have numbers retired soon, how will they accommodate newer numbers? They are going to run out of 2-digit numbers one day right? So how does this work?

With most teams, it'll be a while before they run out of the good numbers...

Rules prohibit 3 digit numbers in the NBA, but any 1 or 2 digit number is fine.

If a team starts to retire too many numbers, they can always resort to having the player's name hanging up, rather than his uniform number... for example, the Celtics have "Loscy" hanging up as a retired "number" (for Jim Loscutoff)... so they can still honor their players that way.

"Loscy" is one of about 22 retired numbers in Boston, including #1 (for their original owner, Walter Brown) and #2 (for Red Auerbach).

Teams also can become pickier when it comes to retiring numbers... some expansion teams have retired numbers that should't really be retired, simply because a guy was their original best player when the team started.

Other teams sometimes retire numbers for players who wouldn't normally have had their number retired (e.g. Bobby Phills) , because they died young (and in Phills' case, foolishly). Malik Sealy also had his number retired by Minnesota after being killed in an accident (not his fault). Same with the Nets and Drazen Petrovic, who was a great player in Europe (hence his induction into the HOF), but in the NBA, wasn't a Hall of Famer on the best day of his life.

In football, it's tough to retire numbers, because players at each position are limited as to which number they can wear, so teams will simply acknowledge their great players by name, rather than retiring their uniform numbers (as in the Cowboys' "Ring of Honor").

In baseball, several teams honor players who played before the late 1920s by displaying their names, as players who played prior to the late 20s did not have uniform numbers (I think the Giants honored Christy Mathewson in this manner, and perhaps John McGraw as well).

In the Celtics case, it'll probably be awhile before anyone there earns a retired number honor, as it's been over 20 years since they won anything. Basically, every Celtic retired number (except Reggie Lewis, who died young, and Ed Macauley, who was their first star player) are from players who played major roles in helping the Celtics achieve championship status.

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