LAS VEGAS — During my interview with Arizona legendary center Bob Elliott during the Pac-12 tournament in March here, he became choked up when I asked how much it would mean to him if Arizona retired his No. 55.
He thought for a moment, shook his head slightly with tears noticeably welling in his eyes, raised his hands and said, “What can I say?”
His emotional reaction said it all.
Elliott, who celebrated his 62nd birthday Aug. 18, was in Las Vegas to attend the ceremony of his induction into the Pac-12 Hall of Honor. With that accomplishment in tow, “Big Bird” — as he was affectionately called during his Arizona playing days from 1973-77 because of his 6’10” height — wants his No. 55 in the rafters at McKale Center.
Elliott’s family has started the hashtag #Retire55 on social media.
The younger generation of Wildcat fans — those born in the 1980’s and after — might wonder why Elliott deserves to join other Arizona elite whose jerseys were retired that played under by Hall of Famer Lute Olson.
The list includes Sean Elliott (no relation), Steve Kerr, Jason Gardner, Mike Bibby, Miles Simon and Jason Terry.
Arizona’s requirement to have a jersey retired (although future players can still wear the number) included a standout getting selected a national player of the year or a major national athlete of the year. The school changed its rule to allow the Most Outstanding Player of a Division I championship event to receive the honor. Hence, Simon’s jersey “recognition”, as the school called it, last season.
Damon Stoudamire, along with Bob Elliott, are two noticeable players Arizona must find a way to have their jersey retired.
Bob Elliott, recruited from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Tucson by the late Fred Snowden, was a 1977 third team All American and three-time Academic All-American from 1975-77.
His greatest distinguishable honor, which nobody will likely ever achieve again at Arizona — He is a member of the elite 2,000-point and 1,000-rebound club in his collegiate career. He is only one of 111 college players in the history of the sport to eclipse 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career. He finished with 2,131 points and 1,083 rebounds.
Arizona’s reviewing panel must consider on a national scale unique achievements along with All-American status in addition to its player of the year requirement.
Stoudamire’s contention to have his jersey retired: He was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1996. He was a first-team All-American at Arizona in addition to being a national player of the year finalist in 1995.
The school’s hall of fame inducts athletes whose careers at Arizona were not of elite status but they became stars in the pro ranks. Major-league relief pitcher legend Trevor Hoffman is a prime example of that.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.