The uniform number a player chooses to wear normally has some significance to that individual, but it’s almost never a topic of conversation among NBA fans. It has no impact on the game, rarely causes for any drama, it’s mostly just a frivolity. However, with LeBron James recently opening up the discussion as to whether he should wear no. 23 or no. 6 next season, I took to Basketball-Reference’s jersey number database to… screw around, really.
#1 – Most popular jersey number?
My first question was, what NBA jersey number is worn the most around the league? Limiting my search to the 2013-14 season, I got a surprising return. 25 players wore #7 this past season, leading the league. The list featured some of the NBA’s best – Carmelo Anthony, Kyle Lowry, Joe Johnson – some of its biggest question marks – Jimmer Fredette, Derrick Williams, Ersan Ilyasova – and some of its most obscure – Tornike Shengelia, Damion James and Justin Hamilton. Runners up were #3 and #5 with 24 players each. #5 actually had few players of real interest. DeMarre Carroll ranked third on the list in points per game!
But how about all-time? The winner goes to… #12? Huh. 361 players wore number 12, topping out any other uniform number. The best to ever dawn a #12 goes to John Stockton, unless you want to count Michael Jordan for that one game. I did not foresee this, nor do I have any ideas as to why this is so. Theorize amongst yourselves!
#2 – Are more/fewer players wearing #23?
Following the 2009-10 season, LeBron James proclaimed that jersey number 23 should be retired throughout the league in respect to Michael Jordan. James insisted on his fellow NBA players giving up wearing #23, so let’s see if they listened:
2009-10: 12 players (other than LeBron) wearing #23
2010-11: 10 players wearing #23
2011-12: 9 players wearing #23
2012-13: 8 players wearing #23
2013-14: 7 players wearing #23
It… kind of worked! The only player that wore #23 in 2010 that still wears it in 2014 is Kevin Martin. This isn’t any substantial decrease, and most of it is probably due more to circumstance than James’s decree, but one way or another he got what he desired.
#3 - Best to wear their number?
There’s not much to this one. Which player is the best to wear his number in 2013-14? For the sake of time and the ability to appoint each player a day on the calendar, I’ll be sticking to numbers 1-31. Yes this is subjective.
No. 1 – Chris Bosh. Derrick Rose was another option, but he hardly played last season.
No. 2 – Kawhi Leonard. John Wall and Kyrie Irving were on this list, but COUNT THE FINALS MVPZZZ.
No. 3 – Chris Paul. But watch out for that Manny Harris…
No. 4 – Paul Millsap. A.K.A. Trillsap.
No. 5 – Nope.
No. 6 – LeBron James.
No. 7 – Carmelo Anthony.
No. 8 – Rudy Gay? I don’t know what to do with this one. Other names include Jeff Green, J.R. Smith, Deron Williams, Jose Calderon, Channing Frye and Larry Sanders. Can I just give this one to afro Kobe?
No. 9 – Serge Ibaka. You could have easily sided with Tony Parker or Andre Iguodala here. This number is all about the overlooked great player.
No. 10 – DeMar DeRozan.
No. 11 – Mike Conley.
No. 12 – Dwight Howard.
No. 13 – James Harden. Or Joakim Noah, perhaps?
No. 14 – Nikola Pekovic.
No. 15 – DeMarcus Cousins. I’d be inclined to give this to Al Horford, but he missed too many games.
No. 16 – Pau Gasol. Only three other players wear this number: Ben McLemore, Steve Novak and Aron Baynes. We’ve begun running thin.
No. 17 – Jonas Valanciunas. Andrew Bynum led the list in points per game, though!
No. 18 – Beno Udrih. I have no where else to turn with this one. Omri Casspi? Sasha Vujacic?
No. 19 – BENO UDRIH AGAIN! Well, Joel Freeland’s probably more helpful to a team, but I’m not passing up calling Beno’s name out twice in a row for this.
No. 20 – Manu Ginobili. Near him are two guys that in some minds got overpaid this summer, Gordon Hayward and Jodie Meeks.
No. 21 – Tim Duncan.
No. 22 – ISAIAH THOMAS FINALLY GETS HIS DUE!
No. 23 – Anthony Davis.
No. 24 – Paul George. *awaits tons of hate comments from Kobe fans*
No. 25 – Al Jefferson.
No. 26 – Kyle Korver.
No. 27 – Jordan “STEEZ” Crawford.
No. 28 – Ian Mahinmi. He was literally the only option.
No. 29 – Beno Udrih. Yes, Beno never wore #29 this season, but no player did! Zero! So why not give Udrih a third appearance?
No. 30 – Stephen Curry.
No. 31 – Terrence Ross.
#4 – Lone Wolves
Exclusivity is cool! Which players were the only ones in the league to wear their number in 2013-14?
Ian Mahinmi – No. 28
Vitor Faverani – No. 38
Andrei Kirilenko – No. 47
Nazr Mohammed – No. 48
Metta World Peace – No. 51
Chris Babb – No. 52
Hilton Armstrong – No. 57
Nicolas Batum – No. 88
Drew Gooden – No. 90
Evan Fournier – No. 94
Jason Collins – No. 98
#5 – Unclaimed
Finally, which numbers have yet to be worn in the history of the NBA? Yes, these exist.
Uniform numbers 58, 59, 63, 64, 69, 74, 75, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 87, 95, 97 have never been worn in the NBA. So if any of you incoming 2015-16 rookies or couch potatoes playing NBA 2K14 MyCareer mode want to make some history, you have the ability to do so.