Thursday, December 18, 2008
Should this man have his jersey retired?
The Portland Trail Blazers are retiring two numbers this week. Actually, just one number, with two different players who wore it.
On Tuesday, Terry Porter had his number 30 raised to the rafters. Tonight, it's Bobby Gross’ turn to have his number 30 retired. Yes people, THE Bobby Gross. And it’s about damn time.
Wait- what do you mean you never heard of him? He played eight seasons in the NBA! Twice he averaged over 10 points per game! Shame on you!
I jest of course, because the fact is, when the team announced they were retiring his jersey, I was stunned- I’d never even heard of the guy. Understand, I spent almost 10 years working in the NBA. I have a pretty good handle on the league’s history and who its major players were. So it’s fair to say that if I’ve never even heard of someone, then they probably shouldn’t be getting their jersey retired.
Along with an election to the Hall of Fame, having one’s jersey retired is the highest individual honor a player can receive. And the Portland Trail Blazers seem to be doing everything in their power to completely cheapen the honor.
See, Gross’ main qualification is that he played on their 1977 championship team, and if you suited up for that team, then wait by the phone, because you’re getting your jersey hung at the Rose Garden.
Look, nothing personal against Bobby Gross, but the guy has career averages of 8.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Those are Charlie Villanueva numbers. But for the Blazers, who continue to revel in the glory of a single championship won 30 years ago, that’s more than enough.
When Gross’ number goes up, that will make the 12th jersey retirement for this organization. By contrast, the Lakers have retired only seven jerseys, and they’ve won 15 damn titles.
Let’s look at the breakdown of retired Blazers jerseys, and see who really deserves it.
1- Larry Weinberg. He owned the team from its inception for 18 years. An owner with a retired number? Somewhere, Mark Cuban is rubbing his hands together with glee. Verdict: Undeserved.
13- Dave Twardzik. Played all of four years for the Blazers, and career-high with the team was 10.4 ppg, but of course, was on the title team. Oh, and has this quote attributed to him: “It’s a joke,” he says. “I’m grateful, but they shouldn’t have done it. My number is retired at my high school and my college. And that was fine. But not here. I just didn’t deserve it.” Verdict: I’m gonna agree with Dave himself, and call it a joke.
14- Lionel Hollins. Played four and a half years with Portland, but again, was on the title team. Topped out at 15.9 points per game in a season. Verdict: Undeserved.
15- Larry Steele. Despite the name, apparently he’s neither a 70s television detective or a porn star. He did, however, possess a career scoring average of 8.2 points per game. Oh, and take one guess as to whether he was on that ’77 team. Verdict: Undeserved.
20- Maurice Lucas. Played a total of four and a half years in Portland, one of which was a farewell tour at the end of his career. Did score over 20 points per game in two of those seasons, and averaged 21.2 points in the ’77 playoffs. But if two 20+ point scoring seasons are a jersey retirement threshold, then make room for a Ben Gordon jersey retirement in Chicago. Verdict: Undeserved.
22- Clyde Drexler. Won’t argue this one. He’s in.
30- Bob Gross. I think you know where I stand by now.
30- Terry Porter. In the late 80s, he was one of the premier point guards in the league. I’m cool with him getting it.
32- Bill Walton. Only played four years in Portland, but averaged a double-double the whole time, including the ridiculous stat line of 18.6 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.2 blocks per game in the championship season. Vedict: He’s in.
36- Lloyd Neal. Career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. Come on. Verdict: Undeserved.
45- Geoff Petrie. He deserves a retired number if for no other reason people still consider him a terrific GM despite driving the Sacramento Kings into the ground. Amazingly, Portland retired his number despite not being on the ’77 team. Only played six years in the league, all with Portland, but has a career average of 21.8 points per game. Verdict: I’ll be nice and give him the nod.
77- Jack Ramsay. You’ll never believe this, but he was the head coach for that ’77 team. Verdict: Nope.
So the final tally is 12 retired jerseys, only four of whom really deserve it. The irony is, of those four, only one was on that beloved ’77 team. I know it goes to the whole “the whole being greater than the sum of its part” idea, but only one player on that team truly deserved the individual number. If they wanted that ’77 team to be honored, they should have retired the number 77 and brought everyone back for one big ceremony.
Because now they’ve painted themselves into a corner. What do they do with the players from that late 90s team who didn’t win a title, and were universally hated, but who were great players? Will Damon Stoudamire, the team’s second best point guard of all-time behind Porter, get his number up there? What about Rasheed Wallace- certainly he was a much better number 30 than Bobby Gross.
Honestly, Portland’s obsession with that ’77 team is like an average guy who takes home a smoking hot chick, and spends the rest of his life reliving the night to his buddies. Enough is enough already.