Of Course the Pelicans Will Not Retire Chris Paul’s Jersey

Just over a month ago, the New Orleans Pelicans hosted the Los Angeles Clippers for the first of two times this season. On that day, a claim was made that the Pelicans would eventually retire Chris Paul’s jersey. For their second visit, I claim the opposite.

To be fair, I’m not going to sit around and pick the support for the claim apart line-by-line. I’m just going to address the bones of the argument that I recall, then add in some more info on both sides of the issue.

The basics of the argument were:

  • Chris Paul was a great player in New Orleans
  • Chris Paul was central to the franchise remaining in New Orleans

The first point is true, but when it is time to consider retirement of Paul’s jersey anywhere, Anthony Davis will likely have put those great seasons, of which there were really only 3 plus an injury-shortened one, mind you, in his shadow. For a franchise that has not retired any jersey on the basis of greatness of play for the franchise to retire a jersey on the basis of 6 seasons with the franchise, 4 seasons in the city, and 0 seasons under current ownership seems like a reach or an act of desperation. Add to that weak case that Chris Paul refused to sign an extension with the franchise after 6 years, leading to his being traded to his current team, and it does not get any prettier for the jersey retirement argument.

As for the centrality argument, even if we buy this without dispute, he was long gone when Benson bought the franchise. The team sold more season tickets during the lockout then when he was actually contributing. During this sales run, the organization could not mention any player’s name and it was common knowledge that Chris had played his last game under contract with the New Orleans franchise. He laid some groundwork with the fans, but he was nowhere to be found in crunch time. He was a role player in the fight to keep the franchise in New Orleans, and a reluctant one at that. He was far from the MVP. I have no doubt that he has affection for the city, but is far from a rare quality. No one should get a cookie for loving New Orleans. They should just get a visit to the head-shrinker if they don’t . . .

I do not see the on-the-court or off-the-court arguments working apart or together.

Chris Paul gave us all great memories, but his contributions . . . both positive and negative . . . . taken together or apart . . . do not merit jersey retirement.

For kicks, however, let’s look at if something like this has ever been done . . . let’s look for some independent justification whichever stance. Of course, each situation is unique, but this is all we can do at this point to find some reason to retire that jersey.

Looking around the NBA, there a number of non-traditional jersey retirements. The Hornets had 2, in fact. Bobby Phills, following his death while a member of the team (auto accident), and “Pistol” Pete Maravich. Phills, a Baton Rouge native, had his jersey retired in Charlotte, and it followed the team when it relocated to New Orleans. Maravich, a Pennsylvania native, went to LSU and played for the New Orleans Jazz for all 5 seasons they were in New Orleans (plus part of one in Utah), had his jersey retired on opening night in 2002 . . . against the Jazz. While Pete never played for the Hornets, he did play in New Orleans, is a Hall-of-Famer, personified Louisiana basketball for at least 9 years (Tigers, Jazz), and changed the game of basketball on the professional and amateur levels. Phills’ jersey retirement was an in memoriam, and I will simply that down as an exception and move on.

Following down the Pistol trail a little, the Heat actually have two jerseys retired for player with dubious direct contributions to the franchise: Michael Jordan and Dan Marino. Wayne Gretzky and Jackie Robinson had their numbers retired league-wide (in their leagues). Does Chris Paul stack up with these players in terms of greatness and longevity with a franchise? I think not.

NBA teams have retired jerseys for owners, trainers, staff, coaches, and the fans. Other teams have none (Bobcats, Clippers, Grizzlies, Raptors . . . who knows what will happen with the Bobcats-Hornets change).

Greatness, longevity, loyalty . . . these are what get your jersey retired. You need to have the right combination of these. The greater you are, the less loyal you have to be and for less time. And so on. I’m sorry, but Chris just does not have the right combination of factors.

I suppose I left out one other reason to get a jersey retired: Pandering.

Let’s stop focusing on the cheap and easy ways to get attention and start honoring what has gone unnoticed but has meant so much more. It will only take a little effort, but it will be worth it and then some. The Pelicans can focus on some of the legitimate basketball history of Louisiana. They can retire jerseys, but there are a number of other ways to get the message out that basketball owes a great deal to Louisiana, and likely more than most realize.

Good memories, yes. Jersey retired, no.

Honor the real history, including the history about to be made.

54 responses to “Of Course the Pelicans Will Not Retire Chris Paul’s Jersey”

  1. This article is a joke Paul played for the Hornets for six seasons you think Paul wanted Katrina to happen and play the first 2 years in OKC?? Then you add 4 yrs of college ball for Pistol Pete to give him 9 years so you can sound like you make sense. Paul would have played 6 years in NO if not for Katrina which is more than Pistols 5 years for a franchise thats in Utah. Paul is the best player in the history of the franchise whether they decide to retire his number is on them. Besides he and Blake might have statues outside staples one day

  2. In my opinion I think that we should not retire his jersey. When CP retires I believe he will be remembered as a Clippers player more so than a hornet. I think jersey retirements should be saved for players who spend their entire career with a club.

  3. This is a well written and reasoned article.  CP3 decided he would rather take a chance with Donald Sterling, widely regarded as the worse owner in sports, than to stay in New Orleans.  He will go into the hall of fame as a Clipper, the Clippers will retire his jersey.  He will be remembered as a Clipper.  It would make no sense for the Pelicans to retire his jersey.

  4. Chris Paul should never have his jersey retired as a New Orleans Hornet/Pelican.  I agree that a certain semblance of loyalty should be a strong factor in that decision, and Chris Paul, although I can’t blame him for the decision that he made, showed the team and the city none.  If the Pels retire Chris Paul’s jersey, it would scream, “We are an average franchise that is desperate for a legacy.”

  5. ykendall87  Before you hire sculptors for those statues, you ought to wait till Blake & Paul actually win something. Making Sportscenter highlights for a lob pass and a dunk are not HOF or statue worthy accomplishments.
    I realize that many people feel that it’s preordained that Paul & Blake are “future HOF’ers”, but truth be told, except for the highlight reels, what have they really done…yet?

  6. Chris Paul had a choice to make and I’m not mad at him for making it.  He had the opportunity to stay and fight but he chose his personal aspirations.  Although I believe that it was a difficult decision for him and that he loves NOLA but he made the choice to leave bottom line.  Most Hornets/Pelicans fans still do and will always love him for his contributions on and off the court, but his greatest memories will be as an LA Clipper.  In my opinion, when Hornets/Pelicans retire jerseys it should be people who have been instrumental in cementing our team in the area and who have dedicated their talents to making the Pelicans the winning franchise I envision it to be.  Just as I believe CP3’s decision was not personal neither is this one.

  7. While I believe that Chris Paul does not deserve a retired jersey, this article does not do a just job of arguing the points. Joe’s article several weeks ago had better points and almost convinced me. Right now, Chris Paul is the best player in Hornets/Pelican’s history. I’m not sure how you can argue against it. There will be a day when Anthony Davis surpasses Paul’s achievements, but as of now, we don’t know if Davis will follow Paul and leave New Orleans. Instead of comparing Paul’s achievements to the current Hornets/Pelican’s retired numbers, why not compare it to a team that has had some recognition, like the Houston Rockets. Moses Malone is a great example, played six years with the Rockets and won the MVP a couple of times with the team, but once the team went into a rebuilding mode he was sent to Philadelphia where he won championship. At that time, Moses was the best player the Rockets ever had and he brought their franchise to prominence. Do you blame a player for leaving when the team it self has to rebuild? Do you blame Chris Paul for leaving New Orleans in the state that it was before Benson bought the team? I don’t. If I was in his position and the team is in limbo and having a previous owner who was frugal, I would leave. If we were able to keep Tyson and David West and he wanted to leave, that would be another story. I can’t blame him. 
    Its a good debate to have, I think its a toss up leaning towards him not having his number retired, just because of the new ownership and the brand change. I do have some fond memories of his play here in New Orleans, and the heart that he displayed on the court.

  8. He was notou raise good but incomplete points about the basis of comparison. Your Rockets points are spot on, but Paul falls short of Malone’s contributions to this team. Also, jersey retirement is highly idiosyncratic by team. Some teams have vastly different standards than others. I invite you to look at the data. This goes back to the point that ownership matters. We do not know what this ownership will do as far as retired jerseys go, but we do know they have little connection to Paul.
    Also, none of this is about blame. It is about how great he was for how long here. He simply was not here that long and his achievements here, to me, are lacking. The Jordam, Marino, etc. data points show that ownership can do exactly as they please, of course, so they may retire his jersey… I just do not think they will.

  9. Jason Calmes I totally agree with you. The ownership will dictate the retired jerseys and I don’t know how they perceive Chris Paul. And he does fall short of Malone’s contributions, but you can argue that Paul should have received the MVP in the 08-08 season. And he holds maybe two of the greatest seasons for a point guard ever. But I do believe his merits are still lacking. If he gets a championship or two and gets league worthy praise, maybe that will boost his case. But like you said, its all up to the ownership and they have little connection with Paul.

  10. To me, the scenario you lay out says the Clippers, not the Pelicans, should retire his jersey. I think this a point some of the others are missing… It is not about Chris’ greatness alone… It is about when and where that happens. He is more likely to have a jersey in Staples than the SKC.

  11. schlmoe ykendall87  Chris Paul pretty much had a HOF career before he left NOLA dude be serious. Blake still has work to do. What did TMAC accomplish? And he’s a future HOF

  12. schlmoe ykendall87  besides I just threw the idea out there about the statues that its possible there was nothing absolute about the statement

  13. Jason Calmes So yes, lets say he does win a championship with the Clippers, he will go down as one of the best point guards ever, if that happens. Imagine, there aren’t that many great point guards who have led their teams to a NBA championship. Just because he will be one of the greats and his best years have been in New Orleans, that makes his case stronger. But ultimately like you said, its still up to management.

  14. No way should this dude have his jersey retired.  No way, no how.  We want to be a great franchise, right?  Would Chris Paul’s run in Boston got him in the rafters w/ the C’s?  In staples w/ the Lakers?  2 appearances, 1 playoff series win in 6 seasons?  No thanks.  He decided to move on, leave us, and good for him.  I’m sure the Clippers will slap his face all over the side of the arena for all of the first round exits he has/will produce(d).  They can have em.
    I appreciate the great player he was here.  I appreciate the memories he contributed to.  I don’t want that dude hanging in my arena’s rafters.  Sorry if it’s harsh, but it’s how I feel.

  15. ykendall87  They don’t give statues to dudes who get bounced in the 1st/2nd round every year.  Well, the Clippers might.  CP/Blake have about a two year window to win something before that chronic knee of CP’s starts to drain him of his physical gifts.  He will still be a productive player after that but not one of the best in the world anymore.

  16. Look, I was also pretty hurt when Chris Paul left the team, but the circumstances were terrible for any player. Shouldn’t we blame Bower and Shinn for ruining our chances. How do you know that Davis is not going to do the same thing? If Davis was in a big market, his 40 point 20 rebounds would have been huge news. 

    Let me list some of the more questionable retired numbers around the league and you can tell me if Chris Paul has accomplished more,

    Julius Erving : Brooklyn/New Jersey Nets
    Rolando Blackman: Dallas Mavericks 
    Vinnie “the Microwave” Johnson: Detroit
    Tim Hardaway: Miami Heat
    Clyde Drexler: Houston Rockets
    Tom Chambers: Phoenix Suns
    Vlade Divac : Sacramento Kings

    Yes we want to be a great franchise, but if he is considered an all time great he needs to be retired where he played his best ball.

  17. I don’t care what the circumstances are or were. That guy did not do enough for this franchise to have his jersey retired. He had the right to force his way out, and when he did, he forfeited the right to be honored in the highest honor by the franchise. Should deron Williams be retired in Utah? Melo in Denver? Bosh in Toronto? No no and hell no. That is the category that CP3 falls into in New Orleans. 6 seasons, 3 time all star, little to no real playoff success, no lasting impact on the culture or future of the franchise he left = no jersey retirement. Easy argument.

  18. Good point. But I guess you forgot to remember that he should have won the MVP 2007-2008, had another unbelievable 2009 season. Injuries to Chandler, David West and to himself really derailed the team from getting anywhere. 

    DWill, Melo and Bosh all have no reason for their former teams to give them accolades, but I also believe that Chris Paul is on another level than those three guys.

  19. I totally agree with every argument you madd against retiring CPs jersey. But I can still see them retiring it someday anyway, for your last reason: pandering.

  20. DavidLeBoeuf ykendall87  My memory is that CP has been in 4-5 series where his team was up 2-0 and then lost the best of seven afterwards.

  21. mateor DavidLeBoeuf ykendall87  4-5 series?? That’s a lie and David you sound like a scorned lover

  22. DavidLeBoeuf  Hmmmm he was the main reason the team is in NO and not Seattle or somewhere else?? I think that counts as lasting impact maybe??

  23. DavidLeBoeuf  you can’t appreciate the memories when you wish the guy bad luck including hoping his knees go bad you’re a scorned lover. It’s ok to not want jersey retired but wishing bad including health problems is low

  24. Probably. Franchise doesn’t have much history though. Bc he’s the best of a mediocre past doesn’t make him an automatic retired jersey.

  25. No where in my comment did I WISH him bad knees. It’s a well known fact that the dude has bad knees. You saw him tonight: the explosiveness wasn’t even close. He’s on the decline. I wouldn’t want to be paying him 20 million a year for the next 5 years.
    I told you I have no problem w him leaving. I have a problem w retiring a players number that decided to leave.

  26. DavidLeBoeuf  David Stern is more responsible for basketball in NO than Benson. He wanted a team there and did everything he could to keep a team there. At the beginning of the 07-08 season the team had attendance problems despite having a team with best record in the NBA at the AS break. The strong play of the team increased attendance enough BARELY to fulfill the lease on the arena that 07-08 season. That was years before Benson even thought after the team and Gary Chouset was originally suppose to buy the team which was also a couple years later.  This was just 2-2 1/2 years after Katrina which made things difficult but having a team with the best record at AS break helped because of the players. Now you can argue the city would have came together to pick up attendance no matter what product the team put out (for example this yeas 76ers lol) but that’s far from certain

  27. Jason Calmes  If you think I’m campaigning for Paul’s jersey to be retired that’s not my point. I’m saying the team’s play that season saved basketball in NO and bought Stern time to sell the team

  28. DavidLeBoeuf  I can respect not wanting his jersey retired I agree but had some of the best PG seasons in NBA history there and put up legendary numbers in those first 6 seasons but at the end of the day he left and 6 years isn’t a long time when you talking retired numbers. For that reason along with the fact he never played for the Pelicans his number probably shouldn’t be retired but for people to try to just try to say he did nothing there is crazy. The fact that people try to shorten his career to 4 seasons in NO and penalize him for Katrina is wrong along with other salt thats thrown around.

  29. ykendall87 Jason Calmes  That’s fine.  If that is the argument, then David West and Tyson Chandler have every right Chris Paul does to have their jerseys retired.

  30. ykendall87 DavidLeBoeuf  He left a 47 win playoff team w/ a new GM that he supposedly liked and a new head coach that he supposedly liked.  The ownership situation was in flux, but it was obvious the NBA’s intention was to keep the team in New Orleans.  He had one MVP caliber year, 2 other all star years, and another borderline all star year.

  31. DavidLeBoeuf ykendall87 Its ok to know the team is staying in NO but the original owner Shinn wasn’t committed to winning a championship but Paul is supposed to trust John Doe with the prime years of his career?  Just roll the dice and hope for good owner. And you fail to mention West had left for Indiana too and who was there? Bottom line paul those 6 years put Chris Paul on the HOF ballet NO matter how much you slight him

  32. DavidLeBoeuf ykendall87 Jason Calmes  I can respect that more than some Tom Benson he wasn’t even thought of at first

  33. ykendall87 I’m not slighting him.  I’m stating facts.  You sound like one of those fake clipper fans that love CP3 and followed him to L.A.

  34. I have a question about the Hornets’ retired jerseys…when the Hornets
    name goes back to the Charlotte, will the retired Bobby Phills jersey
    go over to that franchise? I’m sure they’d like it to, and it would be
    appropriate at least in the sense that Charlotte is the city where he
    played. Could they just retire his number too, like a mini-version of a
    league-wide retirement?  I bet nobody would object, I mean, how could
    you without seeming like a d-head.  This name transfer is also going to
    create a maelstrom of confusion in record-keeping – Charlotte–>New
    Orleans Hornets/Pelicans records will have to be kept and named in some
    specialized way to distinguish them from Charlotte Bobcasts–>Hornets
    records.  Someone think about the poor Wikipedians!

  35. SportsPillowTlk  
    Julius Erving spent only 4 seasons w/ the Nets.  He was a two time ABA MVP and led the Nets to two ABA CHAMPIONSHIPS and was a huge part of the reason why the Nets were absorbed into the NBA.  

    Rolondo Blackman spent 11 years w/ the Mavericks and was a 4 time All-Star.

    Vinnie Johnson spent 11 years with the Pistons and was part of two NBA championship teams.

    Tim Hardaway spent parts of 6 seasons with the Heat, leading them to four consecutive division titles and an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.  He had 3 all star appearances and a 1st team all NBA selection while in Miami.

    Clyde Drexler only spent 3 seasons in Houston.  He was a 2x All Star, part of an NBA Championship team in 95-96.  He also grew up in Houston, went to high School in Houston, and attended and played college basketball at the University of Houston.  He currently still resides in Houston.

    Vlade Divac was in Sacramento for six seasons.  1x All-star, part of the most successful stretch of Kings basketball ever including six playoff appearances and 4 playoff series victories.

    Tom Chambers played for Suns for 5 years, was a 2x All Star, led the team to two Western Conference Finals appearances in his first two years, averaging 25 and 27 ppg in those seasons, and was the sixth man on the 1992-93 Western Conference Championship teams.

    There are some common themes here.  Long stretches w/ the franchise and/or unprecedented team success, including championships, division titles, and playoff series victories.  All of these players also left their teams on good terms and, many are still involved w/ the franchises or stay involved in their respective communities.

  36. ykendall87  I never said he did nothing.  I never said I hoped his knees gave out.  You continue to put words in my mouth.

  37. SportsPillowTlk  All of those guys were either great players who were the some of the best players on championship teams (Erving, Drexler – also from houston and played basketball at the University of Houston), were very good players who had extended runs with those teams (Blackman, Vinnie Johnson), Were great players on teams that had unprecedented success including playoff runs and division titles (Chambers, Divac, Hardaway).  The also ALL parted with their franchises on good terms and are universally loved by the teams fan bases.

    CP3 comes close, especially to that last group.  Two playoff appearances and one series win just doesn’t move the needle for me, especially after just six seasons and his unceremonious departure.  If his number is retired, then Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning should be retired.  Similar timelines and success.

  38. DavidLeBoeuf I think more than anything he won’t get into because he’s not universally loved and the current ownership has little to no connection with him.

    I don’t really rate a player based on all star games that they have played, the greatness of a player really comes in when they are in the first two All NBA teams. Paul is already considered an all time great and he still has several years to go. Maybe wounds will heal over time, who knows…. Tracey McGrady got a standing ovation when he was in Houston and Grant Hill was named to a Legends team for the Orlando Magic. So who knows what will happen in ten years.

  39. DavidLeBoeuf ykendall87  you said Benson saved basketball in NO and Paul made no lasting impact on the franchise which are both false

  40. Chris Paul did what he did. If there was no benson, there would be NO team here. None. They would be In San Jose.
    In the long run he made no true lasting impact. 1 playoff series win, no true influence on anything. He could have done whatever he did, if there was no benson, they’d be in damn San Jose.
    Stop slurping him. He was a great player for a few years. Made good memories. Did good things. Left us Ina time of need. Blamed us for not winning and hadn’t won anything since either.

  41. ykendall87 DavidLeBoeuf  been here since ’02 bro.  Mash, BD, plastic man.  I guess I just have higher standards for who hangs in our rafters

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.