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 33 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 33 best?
Alvan Adams, the Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in 1976, wore No. 33 throughout a 13-year career with the Phoenix Suns. The franchise retired his number, although he and the team made an exception for Grant Hill from 2007-12.
Uwe Blab, whose name I have always wanted to pronounce as Ooooooh-Weeeee Blob but is actually pronounced OOO-vay Blop, still has an all-time NBA moniker.
Danny Granger, the Most Improved Player and an All-Star in 2009.
Eddie Griffin, gone too soon.
Grant Hill, a Hall of Famer whose ascent to all-time greatness was hindered by injury, wore No. 33 for four different teams (thanks to Alvin Adams) over an 18-year career that still included the 1995 Rookie of the Year and seven All-Star honors.
Hot Rod Hundley, the legendary broadcaster and college teammate of Jerry West who had a complicated flair for the dramatic, wore No. 33 for both of his All-Star appearances and all six of his seasons during another career cut short by injury.
Rich Jones, a two-time ABA All-Star, sported No. 33 for the entirety of an eight-year professional career. He owns the distinction of scoring the last basket in ABA history, a last-second layup in the clinching Game 6 of the 1976 Finals that padded his New York Nets’ title win before the NBA absorbed the franchise in the merger.
Wendell Ladner, a mustachioed bruising forward who wanted to be the Burt Reynolds of basketball and served as an inspiration for the movie “Semi-Pro,” wore No. 33 for both of his ABA All-Star campaigns. He died in a mid-career plane crash at age 26, his body identified by the presence of his 1974 ABA championship ring.
Alonzo Mourning, a Hall of Famer, wore 33 for three different teams over a 15-year career that included seven All-Star appearances, two Defensive Player of the Year honors and the 2006 NBA championship. His number is retired by the Miami Heat.
Charlie Scott, another Hall of Famer, captured ABA Rookie of the Year honors and made five All-Star appearances wearing No. 33 for the Virginia Squires and Phoenix Suns. He switched to No. 11 for his final five seasons, including a 1978 NBA title run with the Boston Celtics, the same team he initially spurned to join the ABA.
David Thompson, a Hall of Famer whose NBA career was derailed at age 29 by cocaine and a knee injury suffered in a Studio 54 stairwell, wore No. 33 for seven of his nine seasons, a stretch that saw the 1976 Rookie of the Year award and five All-Star nods. Once dubbed “Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, and LeBron James rolled into one,” Thompson’s 33 is retired by the Denver Nuggets.
Mack Calvin, who has made an impassioned Hall of Fame plea, wore No. 33 for a single season late in a nine-year career that included five-time ABA All-Star nods.
Alex Hannum, TKTKKTKTKKTKT.
Antawn Jamison, the 2004 Sixth Man of the Year and a two-time All-Star
Maurice Lucas, a beloved teammate of Bill Walton on the 1977 NBA champion Portland Trail Blazers for whom his son Luke is named, wore No. 33 for half a season with the New Jersey Nets between his fourth and fifth All-Star appearances.
Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 33 for just two of his 13 seasons — his 1968 Rookie of the Year campaign and his first half-season with the New York Knicks. A four-time All-Star and 1973 NBA champion, Monroe has two numbers retired — his No. 10 with the Baltimore Bullets and No. 15 with the Knicks.
Willie Naulls, a member of the NBA’s first all-black staring lineup, made four All-Star appearances with the Knicks and won three titles with the Boston Celtics, but wore No. 33 for neither team. He only donned the number for 19 games as a rookie.
Shaquille O’Neal, a Hall of Famer and all-time great, wore Nos. 32 and 34 for the first 17 of his 19 NBA seasons, before adopting No. 33 — his college number — in his lone year alongside LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009-10.
Leonard Robinson, a.k.a. Truck, wore No. 33 for his first three NBA seasons before making a pair of All-Star appearances wearing No. 21 in New Orleans and Phoenix.
Marc Gasol, a three-time All-Star and the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, has worn No. 33 for the entirety of an 11-year career. He is the active jersey champion over Tobias Harris and Myles Turner, if only because they are not coming off a pair of championships with the Toronto Raptors in the NBA and Spain at the World Cup.
Larry Bird, a Hall of Famer, sported No. 33 for the entirety of his legendary 13-year NBA career — one of the greatest stretches of basketball, from his 1980 Rookie of the Year through his 10th and final All-Star appearance, filled with three straight MVP seasons and three NBA titles in between. His 33 is retired in Boston, and for him not to be the all-time jersey champ really says something about the number.
Patrick Ewing, another Hall of Famer, wore No. 33 for all but one of his 17 NBA seasons (changing to No. 6 for a stint with the Orlando Magic we would all rather forget). He donned 33 for his 1986 Rookie of the Year campaign, 11 All-Star bids and two Finals trips, and for that his number is retired by the New York Knicks.
Scottie Pippen, also a Hall of Famer and the third member of the Dream Team among this trio, sported No. 33 throughout a 17-year career that included six championships, seven All-Star appearances and 10 All-Defensive selections. His number is retired by the Chicago Bulls, alongside a teammate you may know.
The Jersey Champion
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a Hall of Famer and the forgotten man in the G.O.A.T. debate, outlasted Bird for this jersey championship, wearing No. 33 every season of a 20-year career that spanned 19 All-Star selections, six MVP honors, six NBA titles (two Finals MVPs), a pair of scoring titles and the 1970 Rookie of the Year award. Few players are as decorated as Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient whose No. 33 is retired everywhere he wore it — from UCLA to the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Sky hook ‘em, Kareem.
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