A year ago, the University of Texas retired the number of Kevin Durant. I adamantly disapproved of a ceremony honoring an athlete that was housed for less than 12 months on the Austin campus. Now, a year later, Syracuse is prepared to honor the jersey of Carmelo Anthony, and I’m asking the same question. Why?
I believe jersey retirement represents significant contributions to a University and its program. Sure, Carmelo led the Orange to a national championship, but he was just one member of a 12 man roster. Even Michael Jordan, in all his greatness, failed to capture a second title in his sophomore season in Chapel Hill, because the Tar Heels’ roster had a new look. To honor a player for that “one shining moment” is showing a lack of appreciation for players that put in more years of work. If Syracuse loses in that championship game, is Melo’s number still being honored? I would say not. And that makes it sad, because we’re taught that you win and lose as a team, but to honor one individual for a team performance teaches otherwise.
Kevin Durant was the college player of the year in his only season at Texas, which was the only requirement for Longhorns’ jersey retirement. Carmelo Anthony wasn’t even a first team All-American at Syracuse, but he was the freshman of the year. In his short stay with the Orange, it was two weeks in March that validated his ceremony. Think about it. You don’t need years of service, enduring the grueling practices, wracking your brain endlessly with study to maintain GPAs and eligibility, or fighting year after year through up and down seasons. If you want to be recognized and etched in a programs history, all it takes is an outstanding two week performance down the stretch, and you’re locked.
Al Horford and Joakim Noah won a national championship with Florida, and both returned to college the following year and did it again. The Gators aren’t rushing their jerseys to the rafters. Kareem Abdul Jabber (Lou Alcindor) played 3 seasons of varsity basketball at UCLA (freshmen weren’t eligible), won 3 national championships, was twiced named college basketball player of the year, and holds several Bruins basketball records. With others paling in comparison to this legend’s college achievements, it took 20 years for Abdul Jabbar’s jersey to be retired. Carmelo Anthony is 5 years removed from Syracuse, after playing just one season, and is about to receive the greatest honor a program can give to an athlete.
Times have changed.