Anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes in Crisler Center has undoubtedly had their eyes wander up to the rafters. Whether you saw it first hand or you learned it from someone who did, the history those banners represent is undeniably hallowed.
So why does that history seemingly end following 1989?
In the 17 years since Michigan basketball last honored a player’s jersey number (only Cazzie Russell has his fully retired), countless players have made their way through Ann Arbor and left an oversized mark on the program — none as big as 2013 National Player of the Year Trey Burke.
For his part, it’s not Burke himself that’s holding things up. If anything, he seems to quietly hope that call is coming soon.
“That would mean the world, honestly,” Burke said Saturday before Michigan’s 84-72 victory over Michigan State. “That’s something you dream about as a kid. Growing up, I loved college basketball. I was one of those kids that was running around with a little rubber basketball dreaming of making big shots. So just to have something and to leave a legacy on something like that, as big as that and at such a great university as Michigan, that’d be great for me. I would love that.”
It’s not just him hoping for it — his former teammates Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas also adamantly endorsed the notion.
“You could probably count not even on one hand the amount of players that have come through this school that have had the impact Trey had,” Stauskas said. “It was eye opening and humbling to see how special a player Trey was. To see his jersey go up in the rafters would be very well deserved and I would definitely love to be there to celebrate that.”
When it comes to honoring Burke’s No. 3 jersey, the question of whether he’s warranted a place was settled the night he became the Wolverines’ first National Player of the Year since Cazzie Russell in 1966. At schools like North Carolina, Duke and Kentucky, earning that honor is grounds for retirement of a jersey.
So what’s taking so long?
It could be argued there’s a hesitance to honor anyone else before the decades-long question of how to honor the Fab Five, if at all. For what it’s worth, my answer is a simple and adamant “yes.”
But consider the timeline we’ve been on in regards to that front. When ESPN’s hugely popular 30 for 30 documentary on the Fab Five was aired, nothing changed. When the majority of the Fab Five reunited at the 2013 National Championship, nothing changed.
Chris Webber being recognized as an honorary football captain — his first appearance at a Michigan athletics event since the Ed Martin case — changed nothing. And most damningly, not even the hiring of Fab Five member Juwan Howard, an ostensible signal towards a real breakthrough, hasn’t resulted in anything either.
With no end in sight to the thumb-twiddling over recognizing the Fab Five, the question of whether anyone should come before Burke doesn’t deserve waiting for an answer.
That leaves only one question worth asking — again, what’s taking so damn long?
It’s time for Trey Burke to get his flowers as one of Michigan’s all time legends. The iconoclastic tendency within Crisler Center isn’t helping Michigan keep a squeaky clean image anymore — it’s hindering the Wolverines’ ability to recognize their own status as one of the modern powers of college basketball.