Jason Kidd is without question the greatest player in the history of the New Jersey Nets, and now he has the honor of seeing his jersey forever hang from the Barclay Center rafters. Before a preseason game, a ceremony was held to retire the jersey of Kidd, who is in his first season as head coach of the Nets.
Although it may seem strange for such an honor to take place during a preseason game, it was by the request of Kidd that it occurred at that moment.
“I don’t know if anyone has had their number retired and had to go to work,” Kidd explained, adding that he did not want the ceremony becoming a distraction from the team’s task at hand.
When Kidd was first traded to the Nets, the franchise was anything but a perennial powerhouse in the NBA. In 2001 he joined the team and turned around a franchise that had been one of the league’s worst.
Rather than keep the existing culture, Kidd helped transform the Nets into a franchise that would appear in two NBA Finals, and become a year to year contender.
Given the sell out crowd at his jersey retirement ceremony, the effect Kidd has had on this franchise is one that has lasted. He acknowledged the culture change in his speech during the ceremony.
“I used to enjoy playing in the swamp (in East Rutherford.) This place is a little bit better but we’ve had some big crowds in Jersey, opening night 4,000, 5,000, we were rocking. …No one thought we could win and we did and we continued to win and we just came short of that big trophy but we got there twice.”
A player that young stars sought to listen and learn from during the start of their careers, many of today’s stars expressed just how special Kidd was while on the court.
LeBron James, almost unanimously considered to be the best player in the NBA today, talked about how special Kidd was when the two played together on the USA men’s national team.
“What he did for this franchise, New Jersey, taking them to two straight NBA finals and changing the whole culture of what it means to be a team. Jason will go down as one of the best, you just look at his numbers from three point shooting to assists to steals, to rebounds- he would rebound and go coast to coast. He was a bigger point guard. Like I said, when he came here he just changed the whole culture of Nets basketball.”
A special talent, Kidd’s play will now forever be remembered. Entering his first season as a coach, he has to be hoping to have the same impact from the sidelines. However I’m not sure if his suit can be retired if his second NBA career goes as well as his first.
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express