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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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THE DIMINISHING WEIGHT OF RETIRING NUMBERS

By Joe Nelson
Posted 01/24/2008 at 02:13 PM

There was a bit of fuss among Texas faithful when Coach Barnes made the public comment last summer that Kevin Durant would have his number retired at Texas. That is likely to happen sometime this season or in the near future at the Erwin Center even though Durant played for just one season at Texas and is now firing up shots for the Seattle Supersonics. For the record there is a school policy at Texas that players who earn a national player of the year of award will have their numbers retired, and Durant does fit the criteria.

Texas has not been a program that has retired numbers lightly, as just two football players have retired numbers and just one basketball player in the rich history of the university. Only Heisman winners Earl Campbell (#20) and Ricky Williams (#34) are enshrined along walls at Memorial Stadium and only T. J. Ford (#11) has a number out of the rotation in basketball. Certainly Former Texas QB Vince Young would get some strong arguments for deserving that honor, but Young did not win the Heisman, just a national championship. Retiring numbers has certainly become en vogue in recent years and many universities and pro teams have liberally adjusted policies or come up with reasons to retire a past great at present, unfortunately sometimes for promotional and ticket sales purposes. This is not a good thing in my view and it certainly has worn off some of the prestige.

Growing up in Minneapolis I recall at the old Met Stadium and at the Metrodome only one number was retired, Harmon Killebrew’s #3, which was retired in 1975 towards the conclusion of a Hall of Fame career. Killebrew would not be elected to the Hall until 1984 but his number retirement was certainly fitting and deserving as the first great player for the franchise. Since the Twins have retired four additional numbers in the last 21 years. Certainly you can make a great case for the numbers that were retired, and Kirby Puckett would qualify for such an honor on all accounts. However when Puckett’s number was retired in 1997 it didn’t have quite the same meaning as it should have, as it was the fifth Twins number to be retired, and fourth in the past decade. This is no knock on Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, or Kent Hrbek, all were fantastic players for the Twins and made great contributions to the organization and the state of Minnesota but they did not quite have the mythic careers and reputations that Killebrew and Puckett had.

I have to agree with those that feel Durant is not deserving of that honor having played just one year, regardless of university policy. Durant had a fantastic statistical season and was without question the top scorer in the nation but Texas was not even a great team last year, as they lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

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