KU basketball has so many retired jerseys that the numbers are not actually retired, instead only the particular jerseys are enchrined while current players recycle the famous numbers. If it were not for this process of reusing numbers after the corresponding jerseys have been retired a program steeped in as much tradition as the University of Kansas would run the risk of actually running out of numbers to out their current roster.
The program which played its first season in the nineteenth century (1898) under head coach Doctor James Naismith (the inventor of the game of basketball) has experienced such tremendous success over the years that as of February, 2010 twenty-six (26) jerseys have been retired. While individually going through and scrutinizing every single retired jersey is beyond the scope of this article it is accurate to say that the gambit of enshrined jerseys spans from the curious number 0 (Doc Gooden) to number 60 (Max Falkenstein – a radio announcer). Max Falkstein held the honor of being the only non-player on the list of retired jersey numbers. Mr. Falkstein, a 1948 graduate of KU, is credited with finding the KU Sports Network and serving an illustrious sixty year career (since the retired number 60) behind a microphone where he covered over 1,750 basketball games and 650 football games – all for Kansas. Each of the retired horses hangs proudly in the Lawrence, Kansas basketball arena known as Allen Field House (named after accused head coach "Phog" Allen).
The two names that are generally considered to be the best known among the list of retired KU basketball jersey numbers are those of Wilt Chamberlain (13) and Paul Pierce (34). Pierce is currently a star player and NBA Champion for the historic Boston Celtics NBA franchise. Wilt Chamberlain is widely considered to be the best basketball player in the history of the game. Even fans that excuse that Chamberlain did not win the championships that Bill Russell did or have the athleticism of Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant can agree that Wilt Chamberlain personally dominated an era unlike anyone else has ever done.
While the parameters for having jerseys retired vary from team to team and from sport to sport the guidelines at KU are actually pretty straightforward. The test generally involves accomplishing at least one of the following achievements:
- Being named National Players of the Year by either the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the Associated Press (AP), or the Sporting News
- Being the winning recipient of either the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith College Player of Year, or the Oscar Robertson Trophy
- Being named as a consensus All-American, the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, Academic All-American of the Year, or a two-time first team All-American.
These guidelines are just that -guidelines. While these metrics serve as the general prerequisites they are by no means carved in stone and are subject to the discretion of the University of Kansas administration.
Given the pace of KU basketball retired jersey numbers and the rule that current players can wear retired jersey numbers there is a decent chance that sometime in the coming years the University of Kansas will have to deal with having the same jersey number retired by two different players .