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 36 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 36 best?
Ralph Hamilton, who served three years in the U.S. Army during World War II between his junior and senior seasons at the University of Indiana, wore No. 36 for 10 games with the Basketball Association of America’s Fort Wayne Pistons before being traded to the Indianapolis Jets midway through his lone professional season.
Kevon Looney sported No. 36 as a seldom-used rookie with the 73-win Golden State Warriors, but has since made the switch to No. 5, with which he has risen to prominence as a bona fide starting center with a pair of championship rings.
Dave Cowens, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 18 for all 10 seasons with the Boston Celtics, with whom he won 1971 Rookie of the Year honors, the 1973 MVP award and two titles. Injuries forced him into retirement at age 31, and he resurfaced two years later wearing No. 36 with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1982-83 season. The ever-hustling undersized big man battled injuries once again, missing half the season and a first-round playoff sweep of his former Celtics, and then retired again.
Shaquille O’Neal, a Hall of Famer and an all-time great, wore No. 36 for his 19th and final season, when he played 37 games through injury for the Boston Celtics. His Nos. 34 and 32 are respectively retired by the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. Neither were available in Boston, where he averaged career lows across the board and managed just 12 minutes in the playoffs on a series of cortisone shots.
Paul Silas, a two-time All-Star, three-time champion and five-time All-Defensive pick who wore Nos. 29 and 35 for the majority of his career, also adopted No. 36 at age 36 for his final season. He retired after the least productive year of his career.
Marcus Smart, a reigning First Team All-Defensive selection and member of seventh-place Team USA at the FIBA World Cup this summer, has worn No. 36 for all five seasons in Boston. He chose the number because his late brother was No. 3 and he was drafted sixth in 2014 — or, as he explained, “Three for the history, six for the pick.” That’s about the coolest way to choose a number imaginable.
Lloyd Neal, a 1977 NBA champion, wore No. 36 for the entirety of his seven-year career with the Portland Trail Blazers. Another legendary hard-hat kind of contributor who played bigger than his size (a running theme with Nos. 36), Neal had his number retired in Portland after a knee injury cut his career short at age 28.
Etan Thomas wore No. 36 for three different teams during his nine-year career — one interrupted by open-heart surgery. Now a poet, author and political activist, Thomas’ claim to NBA fame is probably as a member of the wild mid-2000s Washington Wizards. He was a member of team during the infamous locker-room gun incident and had his own (more tame) run-in with teammate Brendan Haywood.
The Jersey Champion
Rasheed Wallace, a four-time All-Star and the NBA’s all-time leader in technical fouls, wore No. 36 for three different teams, including his one-game Atlanta Hawks tenure. He sported No. 30 during the Detroit Pistons’ 2004 title run, and switched to 36 to honor his brother, who died at age 36 that year. Wallace wore No. 36 for another four straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals, including a pair of All-Star campaigns and a 2005 Finals run, before switching back to 30. He then took No. 36 again upon signing with Boston and made another Finals trip in the jersey.
Ball don’t lie, forever.
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