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 23 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 23 best?
Mark Aguirre, Chicago legend and former No. 1 overall pick, wore No. 24 for his three All-Star appearances with the Dallas Mavericks but No. 23 for his two NBA championships alongside childhood friend Isiah Thomas on the Detroit Pistons.
Ron Artest, a.k.a. Metta World Peace, wore No. 23 for two seasons with the Indiana Pacers, including the 2003-04 campaign that included All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year honors. He switched to No. 91 in honor of Dennis Rodman the next season and promptly got suspended for the Malice at the Palace.
John Brisker, a two-time All-Star and legit wild man, wore No. 23 for a portion of one of his two All-Star campaigns with the Pittsburgh Condors, before mysteriously disappearing in Uganda, perhaps at the hands of one of Idi Amin’s firing squads.
Marcus Camby, the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year, four-time All-Defensive selection and UMass legend, wore No. 23 for 13 of his 17 NBA seasons.
Cedric Ceballos, a 1995 All-Star, wore No. 23 for all but two of his 11 NBA seasons, including the 1992 slam dunk championship he won with a blindfold on.
Anthony Davis, future Hall of Famer, trade mastermind and temporary No. 3.
Walter Dukes, a Harlem Globetrotter and two-time NBA All-Star.
Steve Jones, a.k.a. Snapper, a three-time ABA All-Star and beloved broadcaster.
Stan Miasek, O.G. Basketball Association of America star.
Jeff Mullins, a two-time All-Star, 1975 NBA champion and Olympic gold medalist.
Jason Richardson, legendary dunker.
Mitch Richmond, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 23 for his 1989 Rookie of the Year campaign with the Golden State Warriors and for his 2002 title run with the Los Angeles Lakers, but not for his string of six All-Star bids on the Sacramento Kings.
Levern Tart, a.k.a. Jelly, wore No. 23 for the last of his two ABA All-Star seasons.
George Thompson, who wore No. 23 for two of his three ABA All-Star campaigns.
John Williamson, a two-time ABA champion alongside Julius Erving on the New York Nets, has his No. 23 retired in Brooklyn.
Michael Adams, one of the greatest under 6-foot players in NBA history, only sported No. 23 for the last two of his 11 seasons, not his 1992 All-Star campaign.
Bill Bridges, a three-time All-Star, two-time All-Defensive selection and one-time owner of the NBA’s single-season personal fouls record, donned No. 23 for parts of two seasons — between his All-Star run and his 1975 championship season.
Alex English, a Hall of Famer, has his jersey retired by the Denver Nuggets — No. 2, not the No. 23 he used as a rookie on the end of the Milwaukee Bucks bench.
Stew Johnson, a three-time ABA All-Star and Icelandic women’s basketball coaching legend, wore No. 23 for 10 games in his ninth and final season Stateside.
Larry Jones, a four-time ABA All-Star and the president of the players’ union, sported No. 23 for half a post-prime season with the Dallas Chaparrals (or shrubs).
Truck Robinson, a two-time All-Star with a fantastic name, only adopted No. 23 for one of his three seasons with the New York Knicks at the tail end of his career.
Fred Scolari, blind in one eye, deaf in one ear and nicknamed “Fat Freddie,” toggled between Nos. 14 and 23 as a rookie on Red Auerbach’s Washington Capitols, when he made the first of his two All-BAA teams, but never wore 23 again during a nine-year career that featured another All-BAA bid and two All-Star nods.
Norm Van Lier, a longtime Chicago Bulls commentator, wore No. 23 for his first three NBA seasons, including one with the Bulls before a certain someone took that number in Chicago, but switched to No. 2 before registering three All-Star seasons.
Chuck Williams, a two-time ABA All-Star, only donned No. 23 for one of them.
LeBron James, chaser of ghosts and the G.O.A.T., is the best of a generation of players inspired to wear No. 23 by a man we will get to in this conversation — over perennial All-Stars like Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green and Blake Griffin. He still holds the number, which he has worn for 12 of his 16 seasons, at least until he hands it over to Davis in 2020-21. When James retires, he will own records untold, and his string of eight straight Finals (half in No. 23) will not soon be matched. He would likely be a jersey champion had he worn any other number.
Lou Hudson, a six-time All-Star and an actor in “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh,” sported No. 23 for his entire 13-year career and has his jersey retired in Atlanta.
Calvin Murphy, the shortest Hall of Famer in NBA history, wore No. 23 throughout his 13-year career, including his 1979 All-Star campaign, before a post-playing career marred by sordid allegations. His jersey is retired by the Houston Rockets.
Frank Ramsey, a pioneering sixth man, sported No. 23 for a decade with the Boston Celtics, save for a year spent serving his country in the U.S. Army. He returned to win seven NBA titles in a span of eight years alongside Bill Russell and a host of fellow Hall of Famers. His jersey joins theirs in the TD Garden rafters.
The Jersey Champion
Michael Jordan, the G.O.A.T., donned No. 23 for a legendary career, save for a single game as No. 12 in 1990, when his jersey was stolen, and a stretch as No. 45 upon his return to the game in 1995 — until Nick Anderson called him out, and Jordan had to do what Jordan did, transforming back into No. 23 and destroying the league for another three seasons. He finished with six rings, six Finals MVPs, five regular-season MVPs, a Defensive Player of the Year honor and too many accolades to name here. His No. 23 is obviously retired by the Bulls. Heck, he was so good, the Miami Heat — a team he never played for — even retired his jersey.
All hail His Airness.
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