Thursday, October 31, 2013

Boston Celtics retired jerseys by year: when will they run out of numbers?

I'll admit I'm not a huge sports fan, but I am a huge numbers fan, and sports produces a lot of those. It also produces a lot of analysts: after all, there's lots of money riding on much of these numbers. So it's a bit of a challenge to find something original, and by definition it's going to be a bit frivolous.

It occurred to me that if teams keep retiring numbers and don't expand the pool of possible numbers, eventually they will run out. A bit of Googling revealed that the Boston Celtics have the most retired numbers of any major professional sports team. The NBA allows 100 numbers, from 1 to 99 and 00; they've retired 21 in the past 40 years, so a simple linear fit shows that at this rate they will run out in a couple of centuries.

I wouldn't worry about this problem too much; the Celtics have already shown how to solve it. When they retired Jim Loscutoff's jersey, he requested that they not retire his number (18), so their banner reads "LOSCY" instead. Later, Dave Cowens spoiled the gesture by wearing the same number and having it retired.

It occurs to me that I've seen these kinds of stepwise and extrapolation graphs on xkcd (e.g. here and here), except of course Randall Munroe is much better at them than me. So I decided to do a little tribute and rework the first graph xkcd-style using Dan Foreman-Mackey's xkcd D3.js template. My javascript skills being what they are, this was by far the longest part of this project; but it was a labour of love. I hope everyone will forgive me.

1 comment:

  1. the pittsburg steelers have publicly stated that the bar for getting your number retired has risen because otherwise they would run out.

    Also, the NFL would be an interesting study because of the 53 man roster.


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