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 22 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 22 best?
Danny Ainge, a 1988 All-Star, two-time NBA champion and one of many players who wore No. 44 for most of their careers and decided 22 was a worthy alternative, sported the latter for three seasons with the Phoenix Suns, including a 1993 Finals appearance. I still think it’s weird to decide, “My favorite number is 44, but you know what, my second favorite number is 44 divided by two.” Like, that’s not something that happens when your favorite number is 23.
Matt Barnes, 2017 NBA champion, mortal enemy of Derek Fisher and underrated emerging analyst.
Rolando Blackman, a four-time All-Star who I always confuse with the not-so-good Renaldo Balkman, has his No. 22 retired by the Dallas Mavericks.
Larry Nance, a three-time All-Star and the 1984 slam dunk champion, has his No. 22 retired by the Cleveland Cavaliers, although he made an exception, allowing his son to wear the jersey upon being traded to Cleveland in February 2018.
Hook Dillon, who earned his spectacular nickname for his prowess with the hook shot.
John Drew, a two-time All-Star who was the NBA’s Comeback Player of the Year in 1983-84 or returning from drug rehab, before becoming the first player banned by the league for repeated violations of its substance abuse policy.
Gus Gerald, a 1976 ABA All-Star whose career was also destroyed by cocaine, donned No. 22 for six different teams over six seasons. He transformed a life bound for tragedy into one full of redemption, becoming a drug counselor.
George Karl, whose career as a coach makes it tough now to picture him in a No. 22 San Antonio Spurs jersey and short shorts.
Goose Ligon, a 1969 ABA All-Star. Anybody named Goose deserves recognition.
Boniface N’Dong, whose name sounds like a morning radio tandem.
Sonny Parker, father to Jabari Parker.
Tayshaun Prince, a four-time All-Defensive selection, 2004 NBA champion and something of a spider.
Michael Redd, a 2004 All-Star whose ascent to superstardom was derailed by knee injuries.
Andrew Toney, a.k.a. the Boston Strangler, a two-time All-Star and 1983 NBA champion.
Jay Williams, a No. 2 overall pick turned broadcaster whose playing career was cut short by a motorcycle accident.
Alex English, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 22 for three of his 15 NBA seasons — before becoming a perennial All-Star and uber-scorer on the Denver Nuggets.
Bernard King, a Hall of Famer, also donned No. 22 for three seasons before entering a legendary stratosphere.
Moses Malone, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 22 for one season as a rookie on the ABA’s Utah Stars, well before he won his MVPs.
Khris Middleton, the only reigning All-Star to sport No. 22, gets the nod over a trio of unproven youngsters with star potential — DeAndre Ayton, Caris LeVert and Andrew Wiggins. Something about that group makes me think No. 22 is reserved for guys who are destined to be overshadowed by superior teammates.
Dave DeBusschere, a Hall of Famer and friend to many, donned No. 22 for his whole 12-year career, including eight All-Star appearances, six All-Defensive selections and a pair of championships. The New York Knicks retired his jersey for all of it.
Clyde Drexler, a Hall of Famer and famous foil of Michael Jordan, also sported No. 22 for his entire career, including 10 All-Star appearances and the 1995 NBA championship. His jerseys is retired by both the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets.
“Easy” Ed Macauley, a Hall of Famer and ordained deacon, wore No. 22 for his six seasons with the Boston Celtics — a stretch of six All-Star bids and four All-NBA selections. His greatest contribution to the Celtics was as a trade chip for Bill Russell, and for all of that his number is retired in the TD Garden rafters.
Slater Martin, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 22 for all but 13 games of an 11-year career that saw seven All-Star appearances and five championships. The dude hitchhiked to the University of Texas for a tryout as a teenager, made the basketball team, left to join the Navy and serve his country fighting in the Pacific during World War II, and returned three inches taller for his ascension to stardom. His jersey is unofficially retired by the Lakers, if only because it is officially retired for someone else ...
The Jersey Champion
Elgin Baylor, a Hall of Famer whose résumé never gets its due, wore No. 22 for the entirety of his 14-year career. That includes 11 All-Star appearances, 10 First Team All-NBA nods, the No. 1 overall pick in 1958 and 1959 Rookie of the Year. His 61 points in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals — a season during which he only played weekends due to his service as a U.S. Army Reservist — remains a record. He might be the best player never to win a championship, and his No. 22 is retired by the Lakers. It also adorns his statue outside Staples Center.
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