NBA Teams
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Staff Writer 46d

Will Tracy McGrady's jersey ever be retired?

NBA, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets

When you think of Tracy McGrady playing basketball, which jersey is he wearing?

Is it the classic Orlando No. 1 in which he won two scoring titles and established the backboard self-alley-oop?

Or is it the red No. 1 on white, the one he wore with the Rockets when he poured in an epic 13 points in the final 35 seconds to beat the Spurs back in 2004?

It's not an easy answer. And that might be part of the reason that McGrady -- for all his other-worldly talents -- might find himself in a unique group of NBA legends: in the Hall but somehow not in the rafters.

It's looking like McGrady, despite entering the Naismith Hall of Fame on Friday, will not have his jersey retired by either the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic or any of the seven franchises he played for.

"Tracy has been one of my favorite Rockets during my ownership and one of the greatest players in NBA history," said longtime Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. "I'm incredibly proud of Tracy's well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame."

But what about retiring his number?

According to league sources, the Rockets have made no plans to retire McGrady's jersey in Houston, and revisiting that decision has been put on hold while the new ownership comes into place. Last week, Alexander reportedly agreed to sell the franchise to Tilman Fertitta for $2.2 billion. Currently, Trevor Ariza has been wearing No. 1 for the Rockets over the past three seasons. As of now, he won't have to find another jersey for training camp.

In Orlando, where McGrady is the all-time leader in points per game, the situation is a little trickier.

Unlike the Rockets -- who have retired the jerseys of Clyde Drexler (22), Calvin Murphy (23), Moses Malone (24), Hakeem Olajuwon (34), Rudy Tomjanovich (45) and McGrady's teammate Yao Ming (11) -- the Magic have zero former players whose jerseys hang in the rafters. But if you look up at the Amway Center, you'll find No. 6, which has been worn only on one occasion in its team history. And it was by Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, of all people, in his final season.

But the No. 6 isn't for Ewing in honor of his four starts with the organization. No. 6 is a tribute to its fans. The Sixth Man. The Orlando Magic, as of now, have no plans to retire a jersey beyond No. 6.

But that doesn't mean the Magic won't be honoring McGrady. He could be the seventh member of the Magic Hall of Fame, which, starting in 2014, "celebrates great players, coaches and executives who have had a major impact during the team's history." McGrady would join three other players -- Nick Anderson, Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee Hardaway -- in the Magic Hall.

But again: a spot in Springfield, but no retired jersey. How rare is that? This hasn't happened in nearly two decades.

Consider that there are 117 players in the Naismith Hall of Fame and only seven of those find themselves in McGrady's shoes: a lengthy Hall of Fame career (more than 600 games played) with the bulk of the work done for active franchises. (Louie Dampier, for example, shined for the ABA's Kentucky Colonels, which closed shop in 1976 during the NBA/ABA merger.)

The list: McGrady, Bernard King, Artis Gilmore, Chet Walker, Bailey Howell, Richie Guerin and Harry Gallatin. Only three of those names -- McGrady, King and Gilmore -- played in the 3-point era. Yeah, this is a rare phenomenon.


The Knicks' bizarre jersey history

There is one organization that is largely responsible for shutting out three of those names: Gallatin, Guerin and King. Of course, it's the Knicks. It's not like this is the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers situation in which there just aren't enough jerseys to go around. The Knicks should be falling all over themselves to point to its history and away from the current circus.

Gallatin was a seven-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA squad member for the New York Knicks in the 1950s. In fact, Gallatin was named to the first NBA All-Star Game, in 1951, and to this day holds the Knicks' record for most consecutive games played, with 610. Gallatin was great, and consistently great.

And get this: In 1993, the Knicks organization retired the jersey of Gallatin's longtime teammate Dick McGuire's No. 15, which was already retired for Earl "The Pearl" Monroe six years earlier. Yes, the Knicks retired No. 15 twice without doing the same once for Gallatin, who ranks fourth in win shares in Knicks history. (Retiring a number twice kinda defeats the purpose of retiring a number, doesn't it?) The Knicks retired No. 613 for Red Holzman, but not No. 11, which was worn most recently by Cleanthony Early in 2015-16. There's no real good reason why Gallatin's No. 11 isn't hanging in Madison Square Garden.

And that's not all from the wonders of MSG: Guerin was a six-time All-Star for the Knicks, was born in New York, went to high school in New York, was drafted by New York, was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame with most of his points scored in New York. He's a New Yorker by blood, and yet, his No. 9 isn't retired.

And that brings us to King, who was the NBA's scoring leader in 1984-85 with 32.9 points per game in a Knicks uniform. That remains the Knicks' franchise record for scoring average in a season. The next guy on the list? Of course, it was Guerin's 29.5. Another New Yorker who starred in New York and doesn't have his jersey retired for New York.

Bailey Howell? He was a six-time All-Star in the 1960s with three different teams, mostly known for his work in Detroit and Boston. His problem? He played for the Celtics, who have literally gone to letters because they're running out of retired numbers.

The Celtics have retired an NBA-high 21 jerseys not including "LOSCY" for Jim Loscutoff and a microphone for iconic broadcaster Johnny Most. Paul Pierce's No. 34 will be the 22nd number, which would double the total for the next-highest team, the Portland Trail Blazers. Howell's No. 18 was retired in 1981 in honor of Dave Cowens, so unless they pull a Knicks double-dip, Howell will stay in this group. Interestingly enough, No. 18 was also Loscutoff's number, but they kept it active for Cowens.


Should the Bulls add two more?

Who's the third-best Bulls player ever? You can make a great case one is Chet "The Jet" Walker. He faces a T-Mac problem: He split his best work for two teams. Walker was a three-time All-Star for the Philadelphia 76ers and a four-time All-Star for the Chicago Bulls. It's odd that the 76ers haven't retired his No. 25, considering he was part of the dominant 1967 championship team with Billy Cunningham and Wilt Chamberlain, who have had their jerseys both retired by Philadelphia. Walker is third behind Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in career win shares in a Bulls uniform, ahead of Bob Love, who has his No. 10 retired in Chicago.

If Walker isn't the third-best player in Bulls history, it might be Artis Gilmore. He shares the Louie Dampier problem in which his best work was for a defunct ABA team, the Kentucky Colonels, for which he won league MVP honors in 1973-74. Gilmore was a four-time All-Star with the Bulls during his 482 games with the franchise and still is its all-time blocks leader and field goal-percentage leader. The Bulls have six championships in 66 years and only four players' jerseys retired: Jordan, Pippen, Love and Jerry Sloan. Gilmore and Walker should be on there.


Should Magic or Rockets retire T-Mac's No. 1?

McGrady had great stints for both teams, but he has the best chance of getting his No. 1 retired by the Rockets. 

Though he played just 5.5 seasons for the Rockets, no doubt he delivered memorable moments with them. Thirteen points in 35 seconds. The dunk over Shawn Bradley. The 22-game win streak without Yao. Though he didn't go deep in the playoffs with the Rockets, it was mostly because of his body betraying him. How much should the Rockets weigh that?

And one thing is for sure, 5.5 seasons is not too short to have a jersey retired by a team. There are more than 150 retired jerseys in the NBA for players and 13 of them have played five seasons or fewer with their honoring team (not counting those who died in uniform or had a career-crippling injury, such as Maurice Stokes).

McGrady could point to Clyde Drexler, who played just three seasons with the Rockets and has his No. 22 jersey retired. Of course, Drexler won a title with Houston and still has close ties with the organization as its home broadcaster.

If you play 10 seasons of high-level hoops with an organization, chances are you'll get the jersey retired. Of the 166 players with a jersey retired by a team, 57 percent of them played at least 10 seasons with the organization, making McGrady's case with the Rockets a borderline one.

As for Orlando, it's hard seeing them retiring McGrady's number for one simple reason: Penny. It's hard to justify retiring McGrady's number when they didn't for Penny, who, like McGrady, was a four-time All-Star and two-time first-team All-NBA selection in Orlando. If they didn't share a number, this might be an easier call. But it begins to make sense why they're sticking to the Hall of Fame for honoring players and not the jersey retiring. If you didn't do Penny, you can't do T-Mac. And if you don't do either, can you do any? I guess No. 6 it is.

ESPN's Adam Reisinger contributed research for this story.

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