We have arrived at the start of the 2019-20 NBA season, when the league’s many new superstar pairings will finally be unveiled. We have passed the time this offseason by counting down the final 55 days with arguments over who wore each jersey number best, and we have reached No. 00.
There are currently zero days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 00 (or 0) best?
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Benoit Benjamin, the No. 3 overall pick in 1985 who found himself not wanting to leave the house after a dismal rookie season. And for good reason: He played for the Los Angeles Clippers, the L.A. Times dubbed him “a failure at 22,” and just about everyone felt comfortable publicly trashing him before his career ever got off the ground. He played 15 seasons in the NBA.
Aaron Brooks, the 2010 Most Improved Player, who is still plying his trade in Australia at age 34.
DeMarcus Cousins, the four-time All-Star who since switching to No. 0 has torn his Achilles, quad and ACL. He was going to switch back to No. 15 with the Los Angeles Lakers, but suffered the season-ending knee injury before he ever got the chance.
Walter McCarty, the object of Tommy Heinsohn’s affection.
Eric Montross, the most Ivan Drago looking dude to ever play in the NBA.
Johnny Moore, who led the league in assists in 1982, the first in a string of five seasons during which he averaged double-digit assists. He was never the same after contracting desert fever, a rare disease that nearly claimed his life in 1986 and required a harrowing series of brain injections and spinal taps, although he played three more seasons. His No. 00 is retired by the Spurs.
Orlando Woolridge, another fun name and an early dunk artist, who sandwiched stints with Jordan’s Bulls and Magic’s Lakers around disappearing from the New Jersey Nets due to a cocaine problem. The man averaged as many as 25 points per game.
Damian Lillard, in the golden age for Nos. 0, took the championship belt among active players wearing the jersey, dominating Russell Westbrook in a playoff series he ended with his second career walk-off closeout game-winner. Westbrook is a former MVP who has averaged a triple-double for three straight seasons, and he may well reestablish himself as the best No. 0 in the game today, but you cannot walk away from last season’s Blazers-Thunder series thinking he deserves top billing here. Lillard and Westbrook are far from the only talented Nos. 0 currently working in the NBA, as the list also includes Kevin Love, Andre Drummond, Jayson Tatum, Aaron Gordon, Josh Richardson and Jeff Teague. Never have there been so many quality zeroes.
Gilbert Arenas, a.k.a. Agent Zero, the 2003 Most Improved Player and a three-time All-Star, wore No. 0 for all but the final 66 games of his 11-year career, including that three-year stretch where he emerged as one of the league’s most electric offensive players. The Washington Wizards unbelievably signed him to a six-year, $111 million contract after he missed all but eight games of the 2007-08 season due to chronic injuries. His knees kept him from all but two games the following season, and he was suspended for much of the 2009-10 season for brandishing an unlicensed gun in the locker room. The Wizards then dealt him to the Orlando Magic, he switched to No. 1 in an attempt to rebrand his career, and then was out of the NBA a year and a half later.
Kevin Duckworth, the 1988 Most Improved Player, a two-time All-Star and a mountain of a man, sported No. 0 for all but his rookie season on the San Antonio Spurs. Behind Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter, Duckworth was the defensive backbone of a Trail Blazers team that reached the Finals twice over a three-year span at the start of the 1990s. He is memorialized in Portland.
Shawn Marion, a four-time All-Star, donned No. 31 for his peak seasons with the seven-seconds-or-less Phoenix Suns, but switched to No. 1 for a five-year stretch with the Dallas Mavericks that included a 2011 title run late in his career. He embodied the modern NBA as a switchable defender who was a threat to score from anywhere, even if his shot was far from the prettiest.
The Jersey Champion
Robert Parish, the Hall of Famer whose stoicism earned him the nickname Chief in reference to the “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” character, played more games than anyone else in NBA history, averaging more than 78 games for two straight decades and sporting No. 00 for all of them. Playing alongside Larry Bird and Kevin McHale on the Celtics, Parish was a rock, averaging 17 and 10 on 55 percent shooting with two assists and a couple blocks per game over a 14-year period. He made nine All-Star appearances and won three championships in Boston, adding a fourth ring with Jordan’s Bulls in 1997. Westbrook and/or Lillard are his biggest challengers for the No. 0 crown, but they will have to keep up their current pace for quite a while.
Hail to the Chief.
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