Down the road, we are going to see this generation of players hanging from the rafters one day. Getting your jersey retired is honorable. It means that you gave the franchise everything you had and that the fan-based really noticed you. Getting your jersey hung up could mean you were an all-time leader in a state or an integral part of their success for a time period.
With all franchises looking to make room down the line for more lore, there is some candidate in the league right now. Let's take a look at the most likely active player to get their jersey retired.
Rajon Rondo - Boston Celtics
"Playoff Rondo" has always been a thing. Before sizing up the Miami Heat with the Lakers off the bench, Rondo was a fierce defensive point guard for the Celtics during their 2008 NBA Finals run. Rondo enjoyed playing with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, which has helped shape his focused attitude. During his time in Boston, Rondo was a four-time All-Star. Rondo will always be beloved in Boston and could easily position himself into the Big 3 talks as a Fantastic Four.
Brook Lopez - Brooklyn Nets
If James Harden and Kevin Durant stay in Brooklyn for the foreseeable future, then the record books are going to be rewritten. For now, Lopez is the all-time leader in points and blocks for the franchise, while he is ranked No. 3 in rebounds. Lopez made his only All-Star appearance with the team in 2013. When it comes to relevancy, Lopez did enough in the stat sheet to deserve his jersey retired. Not to mention, when the Nets were bad, he was a great speaker to the media.
Derrick Rose - Chicago Bulls
Rose never delivered the Bulls that NBA championship but this really feels like it's going to happen one day. Rose became the youngest MVP ever during the magical 2010 season. Many believe that if Rose never got hurt, that Chicago would have won their first NBA title since Michael Jordan. Rose, a Chicago native, gave everything to that organization and the fan base still loves him.
LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron leads nearly every stat category in his two stints with the Cavaliers. This jersey ceremony should have taken place in 2016 when he helped the franchise win their first NBA championship. When James initially left Cleveland, he was vilified. He was hated. Instead, he came back and led a group to a title. LeBron is Cleveland and nobody can take that away from him.
The next question is going to be where LeBron's jersey will fit at the Staples Center? Will he want it next to Kobe or Shaq? It doesn't matter that this has been LeBron's third season with the team. He helped deliver a championship in a year that lost Kobe Bryant. He is the second-best player we have ever seen. His name will be at the Staples Center the next night he retires.
In Miami, LeBron was the main piece of the Big 3 with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. With LeBron's help, the Heat made four straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances, where he won back-to-back championships and two NBA Finals MVPs. While the run was cut short to four seasons, his legacy in Miami will forever live on.
Kyrie Irving - Cleveland Cavaliers
Despite Irving leaving the way that he did, Irving deserves to have a jersey retired. The Cavaliers trusted taking Irving with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 and he produced at a high level even before LeBron James came to town. Irving was the "Scottie Pippen" to LeBron when the Cavaliers qualified for the NBA Finals three consecutive seasons. Irving had one of the biggest shots of all-time in Game 6 of the NBA Finals during the 2016 championship season.
Irving's numbers would have been higher if he never left for Boston. With that said, Cleveland had one of the most dominating runs in franchise history despite winning only one NBA championship. Irving should be celebrated for that.
Carmelo Anthony - Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks
Anthony played for the Nuggets from 2003 to 2011, where he was a four-time All-Star and ranks third in all-time points. He was a part of the core that made the Western Conference Finals in 2009, which was the first time the Nuggets qualified since 1985.
In New York, since Patrik Ewing left, can you think of another player that made New York relevant? Exactly. The Knicks have made the playoffs three times since 2004 and Anthony was the reason why. He was the main catalyst for the team winning their first Atlantic Division since 1994 in 2013. Anthony's exit out of New York wasn't pleasant but he kept New York basketball on the map.
Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors
What else is there to say about Steph Curry? He is narrowing in on the all-time three-point record for the league. He has the chance to overtake Wilt Chamberlain as the franchise leader in points. Curry is a two-time MVP, three-time NBA champion, and the architect for this Warriors dynasty. Curry is 100% going to have his jersey hanging by the end of this decade.
Klay Thompson - Golden State Warriors
For many of the same reasons that Curry will have his jersey retired, Thompson was the second key piece to the Warriors dynasty. While Curry could be compared to the Michael Jordan of the Warriors, Thompson was his Scottie Pippen. Thompson was the best two-way player in the league at one point. In the end, there are no "Splash Bros" without Thompson. The duo will go down as one of the best in franchise history.
Draymond Green - Golden State Warriors
Green was the third major piece of the beginning of the Warriors dynasty. The trio of Curry, Thompson, and Green headlined the 2015 NBA, a championship team. Green was an instrumental part of those championship teams. Dating back to 2015, Green has done everything possible that doesn't always show up in the stats sheet. He has made the All-Defensive Team five times, including winning the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year. He averages nearly close to a triple-double despite not scoring a lot of points. Green was the team's "glue guy" and will always go down as one of the hardest-working Warriors ever.
Andre Iguodala - Golden State Warriors
Iguodala won the NBA Finals MVP in 2015 after contributing on both sides of the floor. Many forget that before Iguodala joined the Warriors, he was known for his scoring presence with the 76ers and Nuggets. When he transitioned to his new role off the bench, he was a player that kept the second unit going. He eventually started closing out games. Defensively, having Iguodala paired with Thompson and Green made this Warriors defense one of the best in the league. For as beloved, as he was, the team doesn't win three championships without him coming off the bench.
James Harden - Houston Rockets
You can be upset with the way that Harden left Houston but that doesn't mean that he didn't perform. The former three-time scoring champion is second in the franchise in points and the career leader in assists. He leads all players with the most triple-doubles. He won an MVP with Houston and led the Rockets to a Western Conference Finals appearance. Say what you want about his attitude, but he is one of the best Rockets of all time.
Chris Paul - Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans
The franchise leader in assists and steals helped the Clippers, a team that was not known for basketball respect, contend in the West. While an NBA championship never came to the Clippers with him there, the team would have never even made the conversation if Paul wasn't in L.A.
Before the Pelicans, it was the New Orleans Hornets and Paul helped make this franchise relevant during their early tenure. During his early years, New Orleans flew as high as the No. 2 seed in the West. Paul couldn't get the team past the second round of the playoffs but he is the franchise leader in assists and steals. Despite leaving the franchise in 2011, he will likely get his jersey hung from the rafters.
Blake Griffin - Los Angeles Clippers
The former No. 1 overall pick in 2019 finishing his Clipper career with six All-Star appearances, five All-NBA selections, and was the centerpiece of "Lob City." When Griffin played alongside Paul, the two made Sportscenter nearly every night. It brought Clippers basketball to relevancy. While Griffin could never lead the Clippers to a Western Conference Finals, he helped a franchise that was a laughing stock be apart of the national conversation. When looking back at all-time greats, Griffin is one of the best to ever wear a Clippers uniform.
Mike Conley Jr. - Memphis Grizzlies
Conley was instrumental in helping the Grizzlies qualify for the Western Conference Finals in 2013 for the first time. Conley is the all-time leader in points, assists, steals, and was once the highest-paid player in the league. He was beloved during his time with the franchise and is a sure-fire recipient when he retires.
Marc Gasol - Memphis Grizzlies
Gasol is the all-time leader in rebounds, blocks, and games for the Grizzlies. He was the winner of the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year. Teaming up with Conley, the duo was unstoppable during their run to the Western Conference Finals. When Gasol was traded to the Toronto Raptors, who later won the NBA title in 2019, the Grizzlies were happy for their former big man. Gasol will likely get his jersey ceremony at the same time as Conley.
Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks
At 26 years old, Giannis is slowly creeping towards Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time points record, as well his mark in rebounds, while Alan Lister is about to be bumped in career blocks. Giannis' main mission is to lead this team to an NBA title. Even if he left now, the two-time MVP has done enough to satisfy his career as one of the best Bucks players ever. An NBA championship would cement his legacy as one of the best NBA players in the league.
Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder
This is a done deal. When Westbrook was traded, it wasn't because the Thunder didn't like him. They needed to move in a different direction. Westbrook is the all-time leader in points, second in assists, and third in steals and rebounds. He averaged a triple-double for the first time since Oscar Robertson. The small-market team was a big deal and that was thanks to Westbook.
Kevin Durant - Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors
Durant ranks in the top-10 for points, rebounds, assists, and steals for the Thunder. He is the all-time leader in three-point field goals, surpassing the likes of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Durant won an MVP in OKC, a scoring title, and helped the Thunder qualify for the NBA Finals. While his exit from the franchise was not well-liked, his contributions to the franchise were enough to deserve this recognition. Durant is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, so it's natural to see his jersey hung from the team that drafted him.
As for the Warriors, Durant might have joined a 73-win team but if you truly watched the championship teams in 2017 and 2018, you will notice that the Warriors probably would not have won if it was not for Durant leading the way. If Durant never got hurt in the NBA Finals, the Warriors might have won a third championship in 2019. In the end, his brief time added two more championships to the team's legacy. Having won two NBA Finals MVP during that time, Durant could join a long list of Warriors jerseys hanging from the dynasty seasons.
Dwight Howard - Orlando Magic
Even though Howard wanted to leave the Magic in 2012, he did enough to cement his legacy. The Magic qualified for the NBA Finals in 2009 before losing to the Lakers. Howard won three Defensive Player of the Year Awards. People forget that Howard was once a five-time All-NBA First-Team selection and made seven All-Star teams in Orlando.
Damian Lillard - Portland Trail Blazers
In about two years, this is a done deal. Lillard is under 3,000 career points away from chasing down Clyde Drexler as the all-time leader in points. He will likely overtake Terry Porter in assists. Overall, he is one of the best guards to ever play in Portland. His swagger is unmatched. His talent is undeniable. He will have a jersey hung in Portland.
Kyle Lowry - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry is the Toronto Raptors. While the team doesn't win the title without Kawhi Leonard in 2019, it was Lowry that was the leader in that locker room. That allowed Leonard to be himself. Lowry is a six-time All-Star that has rose to fame in Toronto. He will no doubt come back to the stadium to see his jersey raised.
DeMar DeRozan - Toronto Raptors
If DeRozan never wins an NBA championship, then maybe a retired jersey could be a consolation prize. Realistically, the Raptors never win the title in 2019 without the help of DeRozan. He was the crown jewel in the trade that sent Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors. He left as the all-time leader in points and was just a well-beloved player by the fans. DeRozan could come back to the franchise but at this point, he will go down as one of the best Raptors of all time.
Kawhi Leonard - Toronto Raptors
It might have been just one season but Leonard did enough for Toronto in one year than some Raptors have ever done in their entire career. Leading the Raptors to the NBA championship and winning Finals MVP cemented Leonard's legacy in Toronto. Nobody in Canada faults Leonard for leaving for Los Angeles after the season as he is a California native. The Raptors took a chance on a disgruntled player in San Antonio, in a contract year, who could have not lived up to expectations. Instead, Leonard led Toronto to their first NBA championship with many memories. His shot in Game 7 over the 76ers will forever live on, as should his jersey in Toronto.