PROVO, Utah — Danny Ainge is the first BYU player in its 100-year history of college basketball to have his jersey retired, but it was only after meeting strict requirements set forth by the university.
With Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve there to participate, Ainge was honored in a ceremony at halftime of the BYU-Colorado State basketball game Saturday evening, March 8, in the BYU Marriott Center.
Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy and president of BYU said during the ceremony, "The standard has been set very high."
The standards were listed: "First team All-American, recipient of major national award, university graduate, minimum 15-year waiting period, significant accomplishments after BYU graduation (athletics, community, church), and faithful member of [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] or other religious affiliation."
The 1981 college basketball player of the year met all the requirements. He went on to play Major League baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays before a successful NBA career that included two national championship seasons with the Boston Celtics. He also served as head coach of the Phoenix Suns after playing for that team.
The 22,702 fans at the game, reminiscent of the full houses Ainge played for during his BYU career, gave him several standing ovations during the ceremony and cheered as his replica No. 22 jersey was unfurled from the rafters on the west end of the basketball court. The crowd was also thrilled by a replay shown on the scoreboard screens of Ainge's baseline-to-baseline game-winning shot against Notre Dame in the 1981 NCAA tournament round of 16.
Ainge was joined by his wife, Michelle, and five of their six children (son Tanner is serving a mission) on the basketball court for the festivities, along with other family members, former coaches and teammates. His BYU head coach Frank Arnold and teammate Scott Runia spoke.
Elder Perry called two of Ainge's sons to join him as he spoke briefly, kneeling by the young boys. Elder Perry said, "You've been an example to all of us all of your life."
Elder Bateman read short letters from Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland sent for the occasion. The two members of the Quorum of the Twelve, who were BYU presidents while Ainge played there, are serving assignments outside the U.S.
"It's just a great honor," Ainge said when presented to the cheering fans. He expressed appreciation for his family, his coaches and teammates and the university. Saying he met her his first day on campus at BYU, he called his wife the highlight and MVP of his life.
During his 1978-81 career at BYU, Ainge was a four-year starter, consensus All-American, two-time First Team Academic All-American, and set an NCAA record with 112 consecutive games scoring in double figures.