As every incoming player on the Celtics eventually realizes, there are no cool numbers left to choose from. Having 21 different numbers in the rafters (along with one nickname and one microphone), the Celtics have retired far more numbers than any other NBA franchise.
If a player has their choice of number, I think 35 is about the highest they would go (unfortunately for the Celtics most NBA players aren't the dope on your softball team that thinks number 69 is hilarious). From 1-35, the Celtics have already retired 20 different numbers, and it will be up to 21 whenever Paul Pierce calls it a career.
If you think these little things don't matter to players, especially free agents, I think you're absolutely wrong. Most NBA players have had their choice of number their entire lives, and parting with it would certainly have a negative impact.
True, it seems a little petty to be the sole reason for a player to choose against signing with the Celtics, but since we already have trouble bringing in players through free agency, it definitely doesn't help. Is this what you want your new signings to be thinking?
Amir Johnson hasn’t picked a number yet. "I know the 90s are kinda free, maybe I’ll go down in that area.”
Yikes. The talk of how to handle retired numbers has increased lately, with Bruce Bowen giving the San Antonio Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge his blessing to wear his number 12. Recently Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe posed the question of un-retiring numbers on Twitter, and got an interesting response from one of our favorite players.
@GwashburnGlobe I dont think they should do something about the #s. Let players wear them but keep em n the rafters. Something creative
I think Isaiah is partially right. He says the retired numbers should stay in the rafters, and as Austin has written on this very site before, if you want that then just put the last names on them and make them all available.
I wouldn't want to be the first guy to come in and say "I'll take 33 please", but I don't think anyone would take serious offense to a new player wearing number 19 (if you're under 50 don't pretend you knew it was Don Nelson's retired number, but if you did...nice).
Since the amount of available numbers left is certainly finite, what do you do about future great players? Do the Celtics become more stingy with the recognition? Is that fair to players who came through after the Celtics were giving out retired numbers like cigars? There are countless ways to honor retired players. Hell, the NBA Hall of Fame sucks, why not make a Celtics Hall of Fame at the Garden worth going to? Emoji's are pretty hot in the NBA right now, maybe we find one that represents each honored player.
Instead of putting the last names on the retired numbers, why not honor them with just the names? Jim Loscutoff was the only one with the foresight to see this being a problem. He asked the Celtics not to retire his number 18 so another player could wear it, so they retired his nickname, "Loscy". Then you know what happened? Dave Cowens had to come along and become a Hall of Famer anyway, and 18 went up regardless. I guess he was worth it.
Something has got to be done. At the minimum the Celtics should stop retiring numbers after Paul Pierce's 34, strictly as policy. The Bears did it with Mike Ditka, retiring his 89 and saying he would be the last one. Pierce would be the only player worthy of closing out the tradition with the Celtics. I still don't think its enough.
Unless they can somehow convince players to choose their 90's birth year, or maybe convince a hard nosed defender to go in the 50's like a linebacker, there isn't much hope of getting players to be happy with our leftovers. If they plan on having any future great Celtics, it's only going to get worse too. What do you think are some good ideas to honor retired Celtics? Last names? Celtics Hall of Fame? Emojis? Something else? Should they just do nothing and keep the same system? Let us know in the comments.