What’s in a Number?

I heard on the radio the other day that the University of Texas will retire Kevin Durant’s number during the 2008-2009 season. 

Huh?

I realize Durant practically needed another dorm room just to store all of the awards he won in his first year at Texas.  However, the problem I see with this is that his first year was also his last.  He played one season there.  I’m not questioning his ongoing loyalty to the school or even the impact of his season.  But I believe retiring the jersey of a player who was there for one season is excessive. 

At Duke, you have to play all four years to even be considered to have your number retired.  I realize that Texas is not Duke when it comes to titles and tournament success.  So their definition of impact is going to be different.  But I still agree with Duke’s philosophy – a player must show long term commitment to a school in order to have their number retired. 

Looking on the professional level, the Yankees have the most retired numbers of any Major League Baseball franchise with 15.  At first, that may sound like a lot, but when you think of all the historic players that have played for that franchise, it’s not many. 

In the Braves case, they had several players who had a tremendous impact on the team’s success during the run of 14 straight division titles.  Fred McGriff, David Justice, Ron Gant, Otis Nixon, Deion Sanders, Ryan Klesko, Steve Avery, and Javy Lopez, to name just a few.  But I don’t believe any of them will have their number retired with the team.  I don’t think it’s even a given that Maddux will get the honor, despite having won 194 games with the team. 

Why? Because it’s not about numbers alone.  There are only three who I believe will most assuredly see their number honored: John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Chipper Jones.  Not because of just their stats.  But because of the intangible contributions they have made to the history of the franchise.  To the fans, they’re not just great players that helped start or maintain winning seasons.  There’s a deeper connection there – they are automatically associated with the Braves.  They are the faces of an entire era, not just one great playoff run.  What they have meant to the team apart from numbers will likely never be equalled. 

Durant is a great talent, and he deserves the accolades he received for his season at Texas.  But I don’t believe one terrific season should earn a player one of the greatest honors.  Perhaps I’m being overly harsh, but to me the purpose of retiring a jersey is to recognize someone who meant more to your program than most other players.  To me, I believe a certain amount of dedication through time must be demonstrated.  To me it means he gave just as much to team as the team gave to him.

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2 Responses to “What’s in a Number?”

  1. Great post, Nathan. I don’t blame Durant for doing what he did (it’s really more of an NBA policy issue), but – like you – I think it’s pretty ridiculous to recognize him as one of the great contributors to Texas.

  2. Hey – I hear Texas is planning on retiring the number of a kid who is in the 8th grade who said playing for Texas is his lifelong dream.

    What a joke – ONE STINKING YEAR that didn’t result in any kind of meaningful title, and they’re retiring dude’s number.

    Great post, Nathan, and I wholeheartedly agree with you – especially about the Bravos who will see their Uni Numbers on the fence one day.

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