A recent post by CelticHub’s Zach Lowe about the merits of the Spurs possibly retiring Bruce Bowen’s number, has sparked some discussion amongst the TrueHoop network bloggers. Many team’s seem to have at least a player or two in their history that don’t have flashy statistics, but have earned the love and respect of their organization and fans, thus leading to their numbers being retired. So the question was asked to all of us TrueHoopers, which beloved, but statistically undeserving player’s number would you retire (or has been retired)?
In the case of the Nets, the team has retired six numbers, Drazen Petrovic (3), Wendell Ladner (4), John Williamson (23), Bill Melchionni (25), Julius Erving (32) and Buck Williams (52). Outside of Dr. J and Petro, I honestly can’t say if anyone of that list could be considered an immortal NBA player.
Trying to think of another possible Nets number to retire in the mold of Bruce Bowen is a tough one considering the history of this franchise. I think Jason Kidd is a no-brainer, but he’s a certain Hall of Famer, not a Bruce Bowen-type player. When you think of other heralded Nets players, they were either egomaniacs who played their way out of New Jersey (Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson), draft busts (Ed O’Bannon and Yinka Dare), or non-consequential (Chris Morris).
Which brings me to Kerry Kittles. When Kittles was first drafted by the Nets in 1996, he instantly became my favorite player on an otherwise dreary team. I remember traversing all of Long Island trying to find a Kittle #30 jersey until finally finding one at a Foot Locker at Roosevelt Field Mall in Westbury, NY.
A fairly accurate three-point shooter for his career (37 percent on 1838 attempts in 8 seasons), Kittles will probably be best remembered as one of Jason Kidd’s fast-break mates during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 finals teams. Kittles could either finish while streaking towards the rim or could sneak outside the three-point line to wait for the kicked-out pass from the paint, and probably took advantage of the Nets passing attack during their glory years more than any other player. In 2002-03, 82 percent of Kittles shots were assisted on, leading the team. Meanwhile, for his career, Kittle amassed solid, albeit, unspectacular numbers: 14.1 ppg, 1.6 steals, 52% true shooting and 49 % eFG. He also set an NBA rookie record of 158 three-pointers made which was eclipsed this past year by Portland’s Rudy Fernandez. The guy battled chronic knee and leg issues throughout his career, but was never an attitude problem and never demanded a trade, which may be a first for Nets players who have spent that much time with the team. He still works with the team as a part time scout, showing his loyalty.
No, I don’t think Kittles should be nominated for the Hall of Fame, but I think he deserves to have his jersey retired. He had a unique skillset that, when inserted into the proper system, made him a key, if understated player. So now the question is extended to you, the readers. Which player numbers do you think the Nets should retire?
Update: Here are some other TrueHoopers and their musings on retired numbers: