In the world of sports, there are three general categories of athletes: the average, the good, and the greats.
The average player may get a cup of coffee in whatever professional sport they play: a taste of big leagues that they must savour before it disappears forever - as they do, never to be heard from again in this particular setting. They work their entire lives to get to "the show," but only play a small role, and quickly exit stage right.
The good represents a smaller category - a group of athletes who were good enough to make the professional ranks of their sport and perform at a productive clip for a number of years. They were never considered to be all-stars, but they were key members of their teams and found unique ways to contribute to winning efforts. Teams cannot win without these types of players: they are the glue that holds it all together. They may sparkle and steal the limelight once in awhile, but overall they are exactly as advertised: solid contributors.
Then, high above the rest, we have the greats. The elite. The legends. The athletes who we marveled at, looked up to, and idolized for their spectacular achievements in whatever sport they played in.
Wayne Gretzky. Joe Montana. Pele. Michael Jordan. Babe Ruth. The list goes on and on. These are not your everyday athletes, they are game breakers, catalysts in championship glory who bring prolonged success to whatever organization is lucky enough to have them.
Over time, most of these aforementioned greats have been honoured in one way or another - ceremonies, Hall of Fame inductions, and perhaps the highest honour of all, jersey retirements.
Unfortunately for some of the legends that have come and gone through various leagues, those running their former organizations have somehow neglected to honour certain players who've made lasting impacts on their team, and their sport.
The following are the top players who deserve to be honoured by having their numbers retired.
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15 Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks
Some may argue that players who don't spend the majority of their careers with one team should not be given the high honour of having their number retired, but Scott Niedermayer's case should be looked at differently. Niedermayer was a major part of the a Ducks roster that won the Stanley Cup in 2007, and he was a catalyst in reviving interest in a team that was on the verge of going the way of the Atlanta Thrashers. Hockey is a tough sell in SoCal, but Niedermayer helped turn the ship around and turned the Ducks into a legitimate threat in the west during his time there.
14 Dan Quisenberry, Kansas City Royals
Perhaps this is aided by the recent Cinderella run of the current edition of the Kansas City Royals, but, either way, Dan Quisenberry was a key cog in the strong Royals teams of the early 80's, and especially the 1985 squad that won the World Series. Quisenberry racked up 237 career saves and was named the best reliever in the Majors five times during his time with the Royals. If there was an ever an appropriate time to retire Quisenberry's no.29, it would be right now, following the dominant performance by the current Royals bullpen in the 2014 playoffs.
13 Rob Blake, Los Angeles Kings
Rob Blake, like Scott Niedermayer, was an integral part of an organization that didn't necessarily have a huge fan base to work with from the start. Blake served as the Kings' captain twice during his fantastic NHL career, and added a Norris Trophy to his mantle with LA in 1998. He should be recognized as much for his all-around game as he should for his physical play and leadership qualities. Blake was a star for Team Canada and the Colorado Avalanche at different points of his career, but he book-ended it with the Kings (and a short stint in San Jose), and they should reward him for his time with the team.
12 Bruce Smith, Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills are currently renowned for their ferocious pass rush, and while some may assume this is a "new" identity for their team, it goes back to the days of Bruce Smith, perhaps the most fearsome pass-rusher in the history of the NFL. Smith holds the record for career sacks with an even 200, a number that might never be reached, even with the emphasis on pass-rushing today. Smith has dealt with legal issues, specifically surrounding DUI arrests, but if the Bills can look past that there is no doubt that passed on ability alone, Smith should have his number retired.
11 Mark Grace, Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs fans haven't had much to celebrate in recent years, so perhaps the honoring of a former star might be enough to at least temporarily brighten the day of the Cubs' faithful. The ideal candidate for the next Cub jersey retirement would be Mark Grace, the team's long-time first-baseman and hitting machine. He sits fifth in team history with 2,201 career hits, was a four-time Gold Glove winner and a three-time All-Star. While he may not have the greatest numbers of all time, it was the extraordinary consistency that lands him on this list.
10 Antawn Jamison, Washington Wizards
Antawn Jamison may not be the first name that comes to mind when we think of previous generations of basketball superstars, and he may not have stuck with a single team for long periods of time, but throughout his career Jamison proved to be an integral part for many of the teams he played on. He was a dominant player during his time in Washington, even though he was only there for five seasons. It's hard to justify raising a banner for a guy who was there for only half a decade, but it was just as difficult trying to justify leaving Jamison off this list.
9 Kenny Lofton, Cleveland Indians
Kenny Lofton was the prototype leadoff hitter, and starred in that role with the Cleveland Indians during the 1990's. Lofton had speed to burn on the basepaths (his 452 steals are a Cleveland record) and in the field, combined with a .300 average and 1,512 hits while in an Indians uniform. A five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, Lofton was the face of the Indians throughout his time in Cleveland, and it's about time the Indians organization repaid the productive Lofton with as impactful a gesture.
8 Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox
Pedro bounced around quite a bit for a perennial superstar pitcher, but it's arguably his time with the Boston Red Sox where he shined most as a dominant ace in the Majors. The always flamboyant Martinez posted a 2.52 ERA, went 117-37 and struck out 1,683 batters in just seven seasons in Beantown. Not only was he a game-winning machine in the regular season, he was a big part of the Red Sox World Series championship in 2004, their first since 1918 - that alone should be enough to get this conversation started among the Red Sox brass.
7 Michael Strahan, New York Giants
Michael Strahan wasn't just a dominant pass-rusher for the New York Giants; he was a fan favourite, a team-leader, and the face of the organization (even with the big gap between his two front teeth). Strahan finished his illustrious career with 141.5 sacks, a Super Bowl championship and seven Pro Bowl appearances - all topped off by his 2001 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award after recording an NFL record 22.5 sacks in a single season. Strahan remains a great ambassador for the team, and even though he's more of a TV star than a former superstar these days, he'll always be one of the faces of the New York Giants.
6 Chris Chelios, Detroit Red Wings/Chicago Blackhawks
If Chris Chelios had spent the majority of his NHL career other than with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, he may be reveered as one of the top defenseman to ever play the game. For the majority of his career though, Chelios was overshadowed - especially in Detroit playing alongside Nicklas Lindstrom. Chelios could not be beaten in one category though - durability. He racked up 1,651 games played at perhaps the toughest position to play in the NHL, and he did it well for almost 30 years.
5 Edgerrin James, Indianapolis Colts
Many have already forgotten Edgerrin James, for a number of reasons - he was propped up by Manning, he lost his job to Joseph Addai, etc... Many also conveniently forget that James rushed for 12,246 career yards, good for 11th on the all-time rushing list. If that isn't worth a jersey retirement, keep in mind that he was the man tasked with replacing one of the best of all time, Marshall Faulk, and he did it well. James might not have been the most exciting runners of all-time, but he was productive, and while many will point to Manning as a reason for his success, Manning might be the first to point to James as one of the cogs in that vaunted Indy offense of the early and mid 2000's.
4 Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks
"The Big Unit" was just that during his time in Arizona - big. He practically carried the Diamondbacks to a World Series title in 2001, going 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA with 19 strikeouts, while scattering only nine hits across the three wins and giving up only three walks. Johnson was a dominant force throughout his career, with a flamethrower of an arm and a knack for the big moments. Johnson played one more season in Seattle than he did with Arizona, but he was a huge part of the Diamondbacks from the moment he got there - not to mention winning four consecutive Cy Young awards during his time in 'Zona.
3 Toe Blake, Montreal Canadiens
Toe Blake is the "biggest" forgotten name in the history of the Montreal Canadiens. Blake was an all-star player during his time on the ice with the Montreal Canadiens, but was heavily overshadowed by his usual linemates Elmer Lach and the great Maurice "Rocket" Richard. Blake was equally (if not more) successful during his time behind the Habs' bench - overall he's gotten his name engraved on the Stanley Cup a total of 11 times. Should be enough to earn a spot in the Bell Centre rafters, wouldn't you say?
2 Dikembe Mutombo, Houston Rockets
Dikembe Mutombo is known primarily for his notorious finger wag, the one he'd deliver to hapless opponents trying to dunk on his basket. While sports often reward those who put up the points, it tends to leave aside those who are known for their staunch defensive abilities. Mutombo, of course, falls in the latter category - and while he could play a little offense, there's no doubt Mutombo was most relied on for his defensive prowess. The Houston Rockets were blessed with one of the greatest defenders in the history of the sport, and he should be recognized for what he did for the Rockets during the 90's.
1 Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts
Perhaps the Colts are waiting for Peyton Manning to call it a career so that they can bestow the honour on him and Marvin Harrison at the same time - one more connection between the greatest one-two punch in the history of the NFL. Manning will always be in the discussion as to who deserves the title of "greatest quarterback of all-time", while Harrison will probably forever be remembered as the guy who caught most of Manning's touchdowns. That should not be the case - Harrison was a special talent on his own merit. He finished with 128 career touchdowns (good for 9th all-time) and 14,580 receiving yards (7th all-time, until former teammate Reggie Wayne passes him). So, while Manning's arrival did coincide with Harrison' breakout seasons, he most certainly was a big reason for Manning's success as a member of the Colts.
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