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Brad Rock: Time to give A.D. his due respect

Published: Friday, May 26 2006 12:08 a.m. MDT

In spite of missing the playoffs — or rather because of it — the Utah Jazz have considerable offseason business. First is to decide whom to choose in the draft with the 14th pick. Then, through drafting, trading or signing free agents, they need to meet their goal of finding a reliable shooting guard.

They also must get some help in the middle, improve Andrei Kirilenko's jump shot and nudge C.J. Miles from summer league favorite to regular-season contributor.

Somewhere amid all the planning, though, they should also take time to schedule a night to retire Adrian Dantley's number.

Before someone launches a congressional investigation.

It's time to give A.D. — sullen and selfish though he might have been — his due.

The mystery of Dantley's situation has been around for 15 years since he retired. In spite of a career that spanned 14 seasons — half of them in Utah — and a 24-point scoring average, his number (4) doesn't hang in the rafters of the Delta Center. It's all rather strange, considering Darrell Griffith's, Mark Eaton's and Jeff Hornacek's numbers are already there. They have only two All-Star appearances among them, and Hornacek's lone invitation came when he was playing in Phoenix. Dantley was on six All-Star teams, all as a member of the Jazz. He appeared in 461 games for the Jazz, 11 more than Hornacek.

Reasons vary as to why Dantley's number hasn't been retired.

Stories of him disrespecting Miller and his selfish play and dour attitude have lingered. It's true Dantley wasn't exactly Mr. Bright Smiles. Even now he can be aloof and distant, especially with strangers. But those traits shouldn't figure in when it comes to honoring one of the best players in team history.

If a sparkling personality mattered, Ty Cobb wouldn't be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Miller, who says he hasn't ruled out retiring Dantley's number, claims one obstacle is that Dantley didn't play his entire career in Utah. Which seems reasonable until you consider some players have had their numbers retired in two and even three cities.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's number has been retired by Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Lakers. Others to have their numbers retired by two franchises: Charles Barkley (Philadelphia and Phoenix), Julius Erving (New Jersey and Philadelphia), Clyde Drexler (Portland and Houston), Oscar Robertson (Sacramento and Milwaukee), Pete Maravich (New Orleans and Utah), Nate Thurmond (Golden State and Cleveland) and Bob Lanier (Detroit and Milwaukee). Wilt Chamberlain's number was retired by three teams (Philadelphia, Golden State and the Lakers).

Thurmond played only part of two seasons with the Cavaliers (114 of 964 career games), but it was enough to get him honored. Robertson spent just three of his 13 seasons in Milwaukee. Barkley played 280 of his 1,073 regular season games in Phoenix, while Drexler played only 184 of 1,086 career games in Houston.

Sometimes a person can get in the rafters without playing at all. The Jazz have a banner for former coach/president Frank Layden. The Miami Heat retired Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino's number, even though he never played pro basketball. Miami also retired Michael Jordan's number, despite his never having played for the Heat.

Broadcasters Chick Hearn (Lakers), Johnny Most (Boston) and Bob Blackburn (Seattle) have been honored by their teams with retired microphones. Even a public address announcer — Philadelphia's Dave Zinkoff — is in the rafters.

If announcers, general managers, coaches and even football players have been so honored, it's no stretch to retire Dantley's number.

Were it an award for being a good guy, Walter Palmer's, Andy Toolson's, Adam Keefe's, Ty Corbin's, Thurl Bailey's, Jacque Vaughn's and Raja Bell's numbers would be retired. If strictly for longevity, Bryon Russell and Greg Ostertag would be up in lights.

But it's an award for the greatest names in franchise history. Through those early years in Utah, the greatest was Dantley's.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com

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