Jersey Retirement Ceremonies
Games that feature jersey retirement ceremonies are hot tickets and for good reason: They offer fans the opportunity to take in a regularly scheduled game as well as special tribute to a franchise icon.
On Tuesday, the Lakers announced that on Dec. 18, the storied franchise would host retire Kobe Bryant’s jersey retirement ceremony.
Or more specifically, two jerseys.
Both Bryant’s No. 8 jersey—which he wore for most of his career—and the No. 24 jersey he wore at the tail end of his career with soon hang in the rafters at the Staples Center.
Jersey retirement ceremonies can be powerful and historic events. With the news of Bryant’s upcoming jersey retirement ceremony, Vivid Seats looks back at the most memorable NBA jersey retirement ceremonies in the history of the game.
Los Angeles Lakers – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – March 20, 1990
Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leader in points scored, already had his jersey retired by the Milwaukee Bucks when he returned to Los Angeles in March 1990 to have his jersey retired by the Lakers.
The 7-foot-2 legend, who tallied more than 38,000 points during a career that spanned three decades, spent 14 seasons with the Lakers and helped guide them to five titles during that time.
At his jersey retirement ceremony, Magic Johnson spoke not only of Abdul-Jabbar’s impact as a player, but of the role Abdul-Jabbar played in shaping him as a person.
Los Angeles Lakers – Magic Johnson – Feb. 26, 1992
Speaking of Johnson, his jersey retirement ceremony was a memorable one, as the likes of former teammate Kareem Abdual-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor joined thousands of fans in paying tribute to perhaps the greatest point guard of all time.
Magic Johnson’s trademark smile was ubiquitous throughout the ceremony, save for the moments where emotion nearly got the better of him.
Boston Celtics – Larry Bird – Feb. 4, 1993
“Larry Legend” is one of the sport’s all-time greats, and his jersey retirement ceremony paid him a fitting tribute.
Many of his prominent former teammates from the famed 1986 Celtics team were on hand to help honor the Boston legend.
One who wasn’t—Danny Ainge, who was busy playing in a game for the Phoenix Suns—recorded a video message that was displayed on screen.
Even one of Bird’s fiercest rivals, Magic Johnson, played a role in the ceremony.
Chicago Bulls – Michael Jordan – Nov. 1, 1994
Although he’d go on to play an additional six seasons in the NBA after coming out of retirement (twice), Michael Jordan had his jersey retired by the Chicago Bulls early in the 1994 season.
The Miami Heat have also retired Jordan's No. 23 jersey, and there has been speculation in the past that the NBA should consider retiring the number across the league.
Los Angeles Lakers – Shaquille O’Neal – Apr. 2, 2013
The Lakers retired Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 32 jersey in 2013, as the iconic and quotable center led the franchise to three NBA championships during his tenure.
O’Neal also captured a title with the Miami Heat, which retired his No. 34 jersey in 2016.
Though the Orlando Magic selected O’Neal as No. 1 overall in the 1992 NBA Draft and recently inducted him into the team’s Hall of Fame, O’Neal’s No. 32 jersey has not been retired by the Magic.
Philadelphia 76ers – Allen Iverson – March 1, 2014
Short on height, but long on passion, pride and a never-quit attitude, Allen Iverson seemed to embody much of the spirt of the city of Philadelphia.
The 6-foot point guard never won a championship with the 76ers, but he carried the team to the NBA Finals in 2001, the season in which he won NBA MVP honors.
Iverson gave a powerful speech at the ceremony that highlighted his close bond to the City of Brotherly Love.
“I love you Philadelphia…for accepting me, let me be me, let me make mistakes, let me be human, let me learn for them. Just embracing me and making this my home forever,” he said.
San Antonio Spurs –Tim Duncan – Dec. 18. 2016
Duncan spent his entire 19-year career with the Spurs, so his jersey retirement ceremony was an enormous moment in the San Antonio sports community.
The ever-stoic No. 21 got emotional during the powerful tribute to him which featured his former teammates, his college coach and even his brother.