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 20 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 20 best?
Leo Barnhorst, two-time All-Star turned insurance salesman and Indiana Underwriter of the Year.
Mack Calvin, a four-time All-Star who seemingly wore every number in the twenties and is a mainstay in this section.
Doug Collins, one of Michael Jordan’s first NBA coaches and also his last, who I had no idea was the No. 1 overall pick in 1973, wore No. 20 in all four of his All-Star appearances in an eight-year career cut short by injuries.
Donnie Freeman, a five-time ABA All-Star and 1973 ABA champion.
Alex Hannum, a Hall of Fame coach known for his work with Wilt Chamberlain’s 1967 champion Philadelphia 76ers, wore No. 20 for a stint with the Rochester Royals.
Bob Houbregs, whose Hall of Fame résumé is a head-scratcher, wore No. 20 for an indeterminate number of games in Boston.
Marko Jaric, Adriana Lima’s ex-husband.
Michael Ray Richardson, a four-time All-Star, three-time steals champion, two-time All-Defensive selection, one-time assists leader and key component of some of the biggest trades in NBA history.
Fred Scolari, a.k.a. Fat Freddie, a two-time All-Basketball Association of America selection and two-time NBA All-Star who literally shot from the hip, all despite being blind in one eye and deaf in one ear.
Brian Shaw, whose Boston Celtics career was interrupted by a lawsuit brought forth by the team against him, exacted his revenge by eventually winning three straight championships in a No. 20 jersey with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Larry Siegfried, who won championships in the NCAA, American Basketball League and NBA, wore No. 20 in Boston, winning five titles alongside Ohio State teammate John Havlicek on Bill Russell’s dynastic Celtics.
Whitey Skoog, a three-time champion who may have invented the jump shot.
Phil Smith, a two-time All-Star and 1975 champion with the Golden State Warriors whose career was cut short by a ruptured Achilles.
Scott Wedman, a two-time All-Star and two-time champion who had one of the all-time “he’s on fire” games.
Ray Allen, a Hall of Famer who wore No. 20 en route to three All-Star appearances and his first title with the Boston Celtics, feels more like a No. 34.
Rolando Blackman, who turned to No. 20 well after making four All-Star rosters wearing No. 22 for the Dallas Mavericks.
Johnny Green, a.k.a. Jumpin’ Johnny, who only wore No. 20 for the last of his four All-Star appearances.
Stew Johnson, who wore No. 20 for a season with the Houston Mavericks before making three ABA All-Star appearances.
Ed Macauley, a Hall of Famer, turned to No. 20 after being traded from the Celtics to the St. Louis Hawks for Bill Russell. He made the last of his seven All-Star appearances and won a title in that jersey, but his No. 22 is retired in Boston.
Moses Malone, a Hall of Famer and all-timer, donned a lot of numbers, but none less than No. 20, which he sported for two games with the Buffalo Braves before they traded him because they did not want to play him more than 24 minutes a game.
Don Nelson, a Hall of Famer coach turned marijuana farmer, wore No. 20 for two seasons with the Lakers before winning five championships in a No. 19 jersey on the Celtics.
Jermaine O’Neal, a six-time All-Star and 2002 Most Improved Player, is best known as a No. 7 and only donned No. 20 for a single late-career season with the Phoenix Suns.
Gordon Hayward, a 2017 All-Star, has worn No. 20 for the entirety of a nine-year career disrupted by a gruesome leg injury. He holds the title of best active No. 20 because we believe in his ability to return to stardom and his biggest jersey threats — John Collins and Justise Winslow — have not yet reached his highest of highs.
Manu Ginobili, a future Hall of Famer, four-time champion, two-time All-Star and 2008 Sixth Man of the Year, sported No. 20 for all of it — a 17-year career that introduced us to the Euro step, a relentless style of play that served as the prototype for players like James Harden and one wild Halloween night in which he actually swatted a bat out of the air during a game. His No. 20 jersey was retired by the San Antonio Spurs practically as soon as he retired.
Maurice Lucas, a.k.a. The Enforcer, a five-time All-Star, two-time All-Defensive selection, 1977 NBA champion and instigator of the wildest fight in Finals history. His No. 20 is retired by the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Jersey Champion
Gary Payton, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 20 for all but his first two seasons in a 17-year career. He is the forgotten great of 1990s NBA superstars, one of the best defensive guards in league history who went toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan and lived to tell the tale. His Seattle SuperSonics might have had a puncher’s chance against the 72-win Chicago Bulls had they pitted Payton opposite Jordan earlier in the 1996 Finals. His résumé in a No. 20 jersey, which would be retired had Howard Schultz not sold the Sonics: 1996 Defensive Player of the Year, 2006 NBA champion, nine-time All-Star, nine All-NBA selection, nine-time All-Defensive pick and arguably the greatest trash-talker in NBA history.
Good going, Gary.
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