Pelicans should retire David West’s number

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David West
(Photo: Stephen Lew)

Former New Orleans Hornets star David West retired this week after 15 seasons in the NBA. West finished his career winning two straight championships with the Golden State Warriors.

During his time in the NBA, West earned a reputation as one of the league’s true professionals and tough guys. He leaves the game respected by teammate and opponent alike.

In all likelihood David West will not be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. But there is one place that he should be forever immortalized…the rafters of the Smoothie King Center.

Since the franchise first moved to New Orleans in 2002, a pair of jerseys have hung above the floor. Neither quite belonged.

Bobby Phills, the former Southern University star, had his number retired after his tragic death while the team was still playing in Charlotte. Hall of Famer “Pistol” Pete Maravich’s famous No. 7 was honored during the team’s inaugural season, though he played for the New Orleans Jazz.

Both were taken down in 2013 when the then-New Orleans Arena underwent major renovations.

West isn’t the franchise’s greatest player; both Anthony Davis and Chris Paul are sure-fire Hall of Famers. However, his place in New Orleans’ Professional basketball history can’t be understated.

The Hornets’ first draft selection in New Orlean was taken with 18th overall in 2003. At the time, the Hornets were a team in transition in a number of ways.

The core that arrived from Charlotte of Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, Jamaal Magloire, P.J. Brown and David Wesley, was in decline and West struggled to find his way. Over his first two seasons he appeared in just 101 games while contributing 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

By 2005, the old Hornets were largely gone, save for Brown. The team made the decision to build around West and Paul, their first round pick that season.

It proved to be a wise choice.

In their first year together, Paul and West led the Hornets to 20 more wins than the season before. West averaged 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

By the 2007-08 season, the Hornets were division champions and West was an All-Star, posting 20.6 points and 8.9 rebounds. He would make the All-Star team again in 2009 while averaging a career-high 21.0 points and 8.5 boards.

From 2007-2011, the Hornets averaged 47 wins and made the playoffs three times in four years. It was unquestionably the most successful period in franchise history. West was a major cog in that machine posting numbers that had him among the very best at his position.

During his peak years (2005-06 to 2010-11) West averaged 19.1 points and 7.9 rebounds in 429 games. According to Basketball Reference, only Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh, Antawn Jamison, and Zach Randolph matched that output among power forwards.

West’s 44 win shares placed him fourth in that group, behind Nowitzki, Gasol and Bosh.

David West’s tenure in NOLA effectively ended after he tore his left ACL in March of 2011. The Hornets were 41-31 and challenging for the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

Without him, the Hornets finished the regular season 5-5 and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers in six games. New Orleans wouldn’t win another playoff game until this year.

West opted out of his contract after the season and ended up signing with the Indiana Pacers.

He left the Crescent City as the franchise’s all-time leader in 13 statistical categories. He still holds seven franchise career marks.

The Xavier-Ohio product topped 1,500 points in three consecutive seasons. Only Anthony Davis has as many seasons and West is still the only player in New Orleans history to achieve that feat three times in a row.

After his injury West was never quite the same. He only topped 15 points per game once and failed to average more than 7.7 rebounds in any of his final seven seasons.

But his contributions to the Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, and Golden State Warriors went beyond the stat sheet, just as they did in New Orleans.

But those teams had histories and identities long before West donned their jerseys. In New Orleans, he made history and gave a team its identity. If West was on the floor, the opposing team was in for a fight. They knew it. We knew it.

David West is the foundation that the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans were built upon, and he should be honored properly for that by raising his jersey to the rafters.

This time the connection to the player, the fans, the franchise, and city would be real. West gave everything he had for New Orleans, now the team should give back.

Dell Demps, let’s make it happen.

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David Grubb

Featured Columnist

David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…

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