We are inside of one month until the start of the 2019-20 NBA season, when the league’s many new superstar pairings will finally be unveiled. What better way to pass the time than to count down the final 55 days by arguing over who wore each jersey number best until we reach No. 00.
There are currently 19 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 19 best?
Leandro Barbosa, a.k.a. The Brazilian Blur, the 2007 Sixth Man of the Year and a 2015 NBA champion, who came off the bench for two of the most influential teams of the 21st century — the seven-seconds-or-less Phoenix Suns and 73-win Golden State Warriors — wore No. 19 for the latter.
Bob Boozer, a 1960 Olympic gold medalist and high school teammate of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, donned No. 19 for a three-year run the Chicago Bulls, including his 1968 All-Star campaign. Boozer, no relation to Carlos as best we can determine, won the 1971 title wearing No. 20 for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Sam Cassell, a three-time champion and outlaw dancer, wore No. 19 for five of his 15 NBA seasons, including his sole All-Star campaign as a Second Team All-NBA point guard on Kevin Garnett’s 2004 Western Conference finalist Minnesota Timberwolves.
Roger Brown, a Hall of Famer banned by the NBA for baseless point-shaving allegations, wore No. 19 with the Memphis Sounds for a seven-game stint in his final season, well after his four ABA All-Star bids. His No. 35, the jersey worn by Brown for all but 42 games of a career nearly stolen from him, is retired by the Indiana Pacers.
Bob Cousy, a Hall of Famer whose No. 14 hangs in Boston’s TD Garden, wore No. 19 for a seven-game player-coaching stint aimed at boosting ticket sales for the Cincinnati Royals — seven years after the Houdini of the Hardwood’s initial retirement.
Richie Guerin, a Hall of Famer who entered the NBA at age 24 after serving seven years in the Marine Corps Reserves, wore No. 19 for his final two years as a player-coach on the Atlanta Hawks, well after his string of six straight All-Star selections in a No. 9 jersey on the New York Knicks.
Freddie Lewis, a four-time ABA All-Star, sported No. 19 as a rookie on the Cincinnati Royals before enjoying a legendary ABA career that saw three championships and the 1972 Playoffs MVP honor in a No. 14 Indiana Pacers jersey.
Andy Phillip, a Hall of Famer and first lieutenant fighting at Iwo Jima for the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, wore No. 19 with the Chicago Stags for his first three NBA seasons. He adopted different jerseys during his five All-Star campaigns for the Philadelphia Warriors and Fort Wayne Pistons and his 1957 championship season with the Boston Celtics.
Arnie Risen, a.k.a. Stilts, a.k.a. Big Slim, a.k.a. Stretch, a Hall of Famer, donned No. 19 for a three-year stretch with the Celtics that included a pair of championships, but his four All-Star seasons came in a No. 14 jersey for the Rochester Royals.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, which is quite a name to spell, is the active jersey champion by default, because after the Sacramento Kings renounced their rights to Troy Williams and Johnathan Williams signed overseas, Svi is the only player left to have ended last season in a No. 19 uniform. He adopted the number with the Detroit Pistons after being traded by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Vern Mikkelsen, a Hall of Famer against all odds of being named Vern, wore No. 19 as the power forward alongside George Mikan on the NBA’s first dynasty. The pioneering and bruising power forward donned the number for the entirety of his 10-year career with the Minneapolis Lakers, which included six All-Star appearances, four championships and an NBA-record 127 times fouling out in 699 career games. His jersey probably should be retired in Los Angeles.
Don Nelson, a Hall of Fame coach turned marijuana farmer, wore No. 19 for a decade with the Boston Celtics that saw five championships spanning Bill Russell and Dave Cowens. He never made an All-Star team, but his jersey hangs in TD Garden for stellar service rendered to the organization, including a legendary jumper opposite the Lakers in Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals.
Lenny Wilkens, a Hall of Fame player and coach, sported No. 19 for six of his 15 NBA seasons and four of his nine All-Star bids. His No. 19 was retired by the Seattle SuperSonics.
The Jersey Champion
Willis Reed, a Hall of Famer and the injured inspiration for the New York Knicks in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals, donned No. 19 for the entirety of a 10-year career cut short by chronic injury. His résumé includes the 1965 Rookie of the Year Award, 1970 Most Valuable Player honor, two titles (plus two Finals MVPs) and seven All-Star appearances. His No. 19 is retired inside Madison Square Garden, and The Willis Reed Game gave us reason to use that fun trope for every singular performance going forward.
That’s what I’m talking about, Willis.
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