It’s nice that the jersey of former Kansas University basketball player Mario Chalmers will be hung from the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse. This is one of the highest honors a KU basketball player can receive.
Chalmers is a fine basketball player and is best known for his last-second shot in the 2008 NCAA National Championship game, which sent the game into overtime, resulting in a Jayhawk victory over Memphis.
Few deny Chalmers, now a starter with the professional Miami Heat team, was an outstanding player, but many question his quick ascension to the honor of having his jersey join the ranks of former KU basketball greats.
The problem is that, when the tradition of having jerseys of truly outstanding players recognized in this manner began, there were very specific guidelines about who could qualify for this high honor. The original qualifications, established in 1991, for a retired jersey included KU players being named college basketball player of the year, most valuable player in the NCAA tournament or an All-American player four times. The original players so honored were: Clyde Lovellette, Danny Manning, B.H. Born, Charlie T. Black, Paul Endacott, Wilt Chamberlain and Charlie B. Black. The list was expanded in 1997 to include Ray Evans, who was an All-American in both football and basketball.
According to the KU basketball media guide, the criteria were expanded in 2002 to include consensus first-team All-Americans, two-time first-team All-Americans and Academic All-Americans of the Year. Since that time, even a sportscaster for KU Athletics has a jersey hung among the star basketball players. Why not a separate area for such honorees?
Again, Chalmers was an outstanding KU basketball player, but neither Chalmers nor many other recent honorees measure up to the requirements demanded for the early honorees.
Granted, times change, values change and those serving as referees and/or judges change. Coaches change and athletic directors change. Also, the game itself changes, but the first criteria, which set the standard or guidelines for this honor, should not change. They were and continue to be extremely tough and challenging goals.
Today, no matter how the current method may be explained or justified, it isn’t as difficult to have a player’s jersey hung from the Allen Fieldhouse rafters as it was when the procedure was initiated. This, in no way, detracts from the excellence of recent honorees, but the standards and requirements are far different.
Apparently, a coach, such as Larry Brown, Roy Williams or Bill Self, or an athletic director, such as Al Bohl, Lew Perkins or Sheahon Zenger, can lobby to get whomever they wish to be honored with a jersey hanging.
This is fine. Athletic department officials can do whatever they wish. Perhaps they want to have retired jerseys hanging from all the fieldhouse rafters. Maybe this is an effective recruiting tactic. Maybe they tell prized recruits and their parents to look at those jerseys and say, “You can have your name up there if you come to KU.”
Congratulations to Mario Chalmers. He was a good player at KU and represented the university well. He and his family certainly have every right to be proud there is a jersey with the Chalmers’ name and No. 15 hanging in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse.