The retirement tonight of University of Hawaii basketball great Bob Nash‘s jersey with the number 33 on it (I’ll explain the reason for that awkward wording later) makes me think about what other UH athletes from various sports deserve that honor.
For men’s basketball, two come to mind: Anthony Carter (23) and Tom Henderson (14) … (thank you to Rod Aldridge for the reminder of what number his teammate Henderson wore).
Maybe No. 14 in football, too? That would be Timmy Chang, and yes, it’s debatable. I say “yes,” partly because a lot of those interceptions weren’t his fault. Either way, it seems 14 is a good number for UH athletes … that’s what baseball star Kolten Wong wore, too, and that number is now retired, along with 16 for Derek Tatsuno and 11 for Les Murakami.
Does anyone disagree that 00 future UH softball players should wear 00 after Kelly Majam Elms’ legendary career, which included leading UH to the College World Series and overcoming thyroid cancer? And perhaps Wahine basketball Nani Cockett’s No. 20 should join Judy Mosley-McAfee’s 32 in the Stan Sheriff Center rafters.
There are plenty of volleyball players who deserve the honor, too … starting with Deitre Collins, who wore 11 and 12 at various times of her stellar career that included leading the Wahine to two national championships and her winning the Broderick Cup, the top annual award for a female college athlete.
Many fans would sign off on No. 15 never being worn again by another UH football player, since that was Colt Brennan’s when he was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2007, after leading UH to a 12-0 regular season. Jason Elam’s 7, Gary Allen’s 26 and Jesse Sapolu’s 76 should also be retired.
Rainbows football legend Tommy Kaulukukui‘s No. 32 was unofficiallly retired, until it was accidentally un-retired for a few years when it was issued to Richard Higa. Now it is officially retired.
I’ve been told one reason numbers are rarely retired is fear that a team might run out of them. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, even with basketball, in which a player can only wear numbers that include the digits 0 to 5. If my math is right, that means there are 37 combinations available (if, like a roulette wheel, 0 and 00 are both in play, which I think they are, just not on the same roster): 0, 00, 1-5, 10-15, 20-25, 30-35, 40-45 and 50-55. So, even if 10 numbers are retired, you’ve still got nearly twice as many available as you need. And if your program has had 10 players worthy of a retired number, can we all agree that’s a good “problem” to have?
UH tries to avoid this by saying a player’s “jersey” is retired rather than the number. The reasoning is that means a future player could wear the number without disrespecting the legacy of the all-time great.
I didn’t forget about No. 54 in football. I’m mentioning it here, because it ties into this “running out of numbers” silliness. Every UH football fan knows 54 is numberese for Noga. So it should be shelved, too, unless another Noga comes along … which brings us to this: I think a number can be “un-retired” for two reasons, 1) If the player’s son, daughter or grandchild wants to wear it, or 2) If the player whose number is retired grants permission. That could mitigate the other ridiculous concern I’ve heard that a hot-shot recruit who really wants a specific number couldn’t have it because it’s retired (but, really, would you want someone on your team if that was a factor in deciding where he or she would go to school? I guess it depends how good the player is, right?)