UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Next Number Up in the Rafters


An iconic number on the Celtics during the late ’90s and 2000s.

Paul Pierce was the saving grace for a storied franchise that lost its footing for a good long while. In every element of the game, Pierce extended the Celtics’ legacy to something more modern and not simply a taste from the old times. As I watched the number take its place next to the other legends, I started to wonder if it was the only one we’d see from the “Big Three” era of dominance. Although Ray Allen will never have his number retired by the Celtics, there could be an argument made that Kevin Garnett deserves his number to be retired too.

The case for Garnett is quite the powerful one. By no means am I suggesting he’s on the same level as Pierce in terms of legendary Celtics, but he doesn’t have to be to make it into the rafters. Take for instance Cedric Maxwell, a beloved Celtics player whose number, 31, was retired. He only played eight seasons for the Boston Celtics while averaging 12.5 points and 6.3 rebounds. He was obviously better earlier in his career, but jersey retirement takes account the totality of what one has done and not simply the good moments. Those numbers aren’t impressive enough to warrant my amazement. Eight seasons isn’t even that long. Consider if a NBA player starts at 20 and finishes at 28; he would have only just reached his prime.

Garnett, on the other hand, averaged 15.7 points per game and 8.3 rebounds on the Celtics roster while being the solid second option behind Pierce for their two Finals appearances. Garnett was also the emotional leader for the Boston Celtics; he revamped the culture of winning we had set out for ourselves which started with Bill Russell. The number in the rafters isn’t a simple assessment of statistical ability. It’s also the culmination of intangibles one brings to the team. Garnett had that in spades.

There is also certainly a contrasting opinion that comes with mentioning Garnett. When discussing the statistics above, there was a notable omission of time spent on my part. To be completely fair, Garnett only spent six season with the Celtics, a very glaring hole. The next person to have a comparable team was the aforementioned Maxwell who still put in eight years. But let’s say I turn a blind eye to longevity. Sure, I would love to. Do I give the same consideration to someone like Rajon Rondo? It almost seems to be a foregone conclusion from the fans that he won’t have his number retired. Yet, he gave nine seasons, became the Celtics captain for a while, and averaged 11.1 points with 8.5 assists in his tenure. Impressive. And, what’s more, he was just as integral to the two Finals appearances as Garnett was. If he doesn’t get his number retired, should Garnett?

Basketball is a sport where intangibles really play a major role in terms of the impact a player has on his team. Does Garnett truly deserve a spot up on the rafters? Most definitely. But for us to say that without any regrets, we should put Rondo up for the same honor. Paul Pierce mentioned that he was expecting Garnett to be next; he should also mention his little point guard is the next in line after that. Maybe even Ray Allen as those bonds seemed to be mended.

As Kevin Garnett has said in the past, anything’s possible.