Jason Kidd stood at the 3-point arc and watched his No. 5 head to the Barclays Center rafters while music and fireworks blared.
The motivation to become someone worthy of such an achievement started way back in high school.
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Kidd, whose 12,091 assists are second most in NBA history, saw that vision come to fruition before Thursday night’s preseason game with Miami when the Nets made him the sixth player in franchise history to have his number retired.
During the brief ceremony, Kidd was honored in speeches by former general manager Rod Thorn and partner Dmitry Razumov. Thorn marveled at acquiring a player who transformed a 26-win team to an Eastern Conference champion while Razumov recalled meeting Kidd during a party at the 2010 All-Star Game as Mikhail Prokhorov was preparing to buy the team.
Kidd mentioned motivation drawing all the way back to St. Joseph’s Notre Dame high school in Oakland when he saw Calvin Byrd get his jersey sent to the rafters. Byrd did not have the professional career Kidd had but was a McDonald’s All-American in 1989 and had a solid career with Villanova before playing in Switzerland. Like Kidd, Byrd is now coaching.
“It was amazing because his jersey is now hanging in the rafters and I was like, 'Man, I hope one day I can do the same thing,' and just understand how special that means I guess no one will wear that jersey and I guess from the hard work and success that he had, it paid off and that was the reward,” Kidd said. “So I guess in the back of my mind that was the motivation to do the long hours in the gym, looking at that jersey hanging there.”
The ceremony marked the official closure to the New Jersey portion of his career which started with consecutive NBA Finals appearances. The Nets were swept by the Lakers dynasty in 2002 and took the Spurs to Game 6 a year later.
“I want to thank the Nets organization,” Kidd said. “As a player you talk about winning championships and this ranks right there with being able to have your jersey retired. I've said it all the time, it's just not me going up. It's my teammates, my coaches, the trainers, the doctors, the PR [public relations] people. It's everybody that was there for that run and it's a great honor.”
Kidd's No. 5 jersey was the first to be officially retired in Brooklyn and Kidd couldn’t help but wonder what the success of 2002 and 2003 would have been like had the team been in the borough at the time.
“It probably would have been special,” Kidd said. “If everything went the same way, we would have had a good run in Brooklyn. Maybe we do win a championship but even if everything turned out the same, that would have been a great way to open up, having a Brooklyn team, for a pro franchise being in Brooklyn, get to the Finals the first time out and come back and validate it and get to the Finals and go to Game 6. I think it would have been really nice.”
Like many of his comments leading up to the ceremony, Kidd kept his comments brief and during the ceremony said he was humbled at the occasion. The Nets also played tributes to Kidd from former teammates on the video board during the game.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.