NBA Countdown: Which player wore No. 32 best in league history?

Which NBA player wore No. 32 best?
Which NBA player wore No. 32 best?

We are inside of two months 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 these final 55 days by arguing over who wore each jersey number best until we reach No. 00.

There are currently 32 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 32 best?

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Shoutouts

Sim Bhullar, a 7-foot-5 behemoth and the first NBA player of Indian descent.

Bill Bridges wore No. 32 with four different franchises, earning three All-Star nods, two All-Defensive selections and a 1975 NBA championship ring in the jersey.

Downtown Freddie Brown, a 1976 All-Star and 1979 champion, had his No. 32 retired by the Seattle SuperSonics after spending his whole career with the team.

Chubby Cox, Kobe Bryant’s uncle, and what a name.

Billy Cunningham, a.k.a. the Kangaroo Kid, sported No. 32 for the entirety of an 11-year Hall of Fame career that included five All-Star selections, 1973 MVP honors and the 1967 NBA championship. His No. 32 is retired by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Sean Elliottauthor of the Memorial Day Miracle, had his No. 32 retired by the San Antonio Spurs after 12 NBA seasons. A two-time All-Star and 1999 champion, he is the first NBA player ever to return following a kidney transplant.

Blake Griffin, the first overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, had his No. 32 retired by the Los Angeles Clippers in a mock ceremony. A few months later, the Pistons traded Griffin to the Detroit Pistons, for whom he now wears No. 23.

Richard Hamilton, a three-time All-Star and 2004 NBA champion, wore No. 32 throughout his 14-year NBA career, much of it with a face mask and a headband.

John Johnson, a two-time All-Star, 1979 NBA champion and original point forward.

Larry Jones, a four-time All-Star and three-time ABA champion, wore No. 32 for the bulk of a decade-long career. He may also be the godfather of player empowerment. In 1970, upset about his five-figure salary in comparison to Spencer Haywood’s $1.9 million deal, Jones arrived to work in a “railroad suit,” suggesting that was all he could afford, and soon earned a trade from Denver to Florida.

Christian Laettner, a 1997 All-Star, the most regrettable selection to the Dream Team and an all-time villain, sported No. 32 — the jersey number that is hanging in his honor at Cameron Indoor Stadium — for his first eight-plus NBA seasons.

Harold Miner, a.k.a. Baby Jordan, a regrettable nickname even in the moment.

Dan Roundfield, a three-time All-Star and five-time All-Defensive selection, wore No. 32 for his first 10 seasons, including his peak with the Atlanta Hawks. He was a hero in death, drowning off the coat of Aruba while saving his wife from rough seas.

Brian Winters, a gloriously mustachioed man, made two trips to the All-Star Game wearing No. 32 for the Milwaukee Bucks and was once praised by Michael Jordan as the greatest pure shooter in basketball history — owner of “the most beautiful stroke of all the people whom I can think of.” The Bucks retired his No. 32.

Caveats

Charles Barkley, the Hall of Famer whose No. 34 is retired in both Philadelphia and Phoenix, wore No. 32 for the 1991-92 campaign in honor of Magic Johnson, who had just announced his retirement following an HIV diagnosis prior to the season.

Wayne Embry, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 32 for one season with the Cincinnati Royals, switched to No. 15 and rattled off five straight All-Star campaigns.

Julius Erving, a Hall of Famer and absolute legend, wore No. 32 during his five-year ABA career, capturing three MVPs and two titles in that jersey. But he might be better known as No. 6 for the Philadelphia 76ers, for whom he made 11 All-Star appearances, captured his lone NBA MVP and his only NBA championship.

Jason Kidd, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 32 during his four-plus seasons with the Phoenix Suns, but seven of his 10 All-Star appearances and his 2011 NBA championship came in No. 5 jerseys for the New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks.

Jerry Lucas, a Hall of Famer and one of the NBA’s great minds, only wore No. 32 for his final four-plus seasons and one of his seven All-Star appearances. He did wear the jersey number for his lone championship, with the 1973 New York Knicks.

Detlef Schrempf, a three-time NBA All-Star and two-time Sixth Man of the Year, wore No. 32 in his early career with Dallas before blossoming as an 11 in Indiana.

Ralph Simpson, father of four-time Grammy winner India Arie, wore No. 44 for his five ABA All-Star seasons before adopting 32 for two late-career seasons in Detroit.

Amar’e Stoudemire wore No. 32 during his 2003 Rookie of the Year campaign, but switched to No. 1 before playin in six All-Star Games for the Suns and Knicks.

Lenny Wilkens, a Hall of Fame player and coach, only wore No. 32 for his first three years with the St. Louis Hawks, before switching to the teens and ascending into stardom in St. Louis and Seattle. The SuperSonics retired his No. 19.

Charles Williams, a two-time ABA All-Star and 1968 ABA champion, wore Nos. 44 and 10 for four different ABA franchises before capping a six-year career in No. 32.

Currently

Karl-Anthony Towns, a two-time All-Star and one-time Next Big Thing, is easily the best active No. 32 — somewhat surprising, given the list of legends to wear it.

Challengers

Karl Malone, a.k.a. The Maiman, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 32 for all 18 seasons he spent with the Utah Jazz, including 14 All-Star appearances and two MVP seasons. The gun- and truck-loving power forward has his No. 32 retired in Utah.

Kevin McHale, a Hall of Famer and post-move guru, wore No. 32 en route to seven All-Star appearances, three championships and two Sixth Man of the Year honors in a 13-year career for the Boston Celtics. His No. 32 hangs in the TD Garden rafters.

Shaquille O’Neal, another Hall of Famer and all-timer, donned No. 32 for nine of his 19 seasons. He made eight of his 15 All-Star appearances wearing 32, and both the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat have retired the number in his honor, but three of his four titles and his lone MVP came wearing No. 34 for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bill Walton, also a Hall of Famer and an all-time great whose quest for G.O.A.T. status was far too often interrupted by injury, sported No. 32 for the bulk of his NBA career, including his 1977 NBA championship and 1978 MVP campaigns. He won a Sixth Man of the Year honor and his second title wearing No. 5 for the Celtics.

The Jersey Champion

Magic Johnson, a Hall of Famer and the greatest point guard in NBA history, wore No. 32 for the entirety of a 13-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five championships and earning three MVP awards en route to a dozen All-Star nods. A Dream Team member and inspiration for a generation of players building empires, he was so good and beloved that Barkley wore the number in his honor, a tribute rarely seen and certainly deserved when you are the best of this truly elite group.

Cheers, Earvin.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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