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 37 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 37 best?
Kostas Antetokounmpo, the youngest of three Antetokounmpos to play in the NBA, wore No. 37 in his only two NBA games as a rookie on a two-way contract with the Dallas Mavericks last season. He scored two points. The Los Angeles Lakers claimed Kostas off waivers in July, presumably as a wink to brother Giannis, the NBA’s reigning MVP and a 2021 free agent. Here is hoping Kostas sticks with No. 37 in L.A. and blossoms into something more than the Greek pipsqueak.
Semi Ojeleye, he of the 3,786 bicep curls every morning, is the active jersey champion, because who is going to tell him he’s not? The man is an Adonis, filling out his No. 37 jersey in two seasons with the Boston Celtics, one of which ended in the conference finals, thanks to his work as something of a Giannis stopper.
Derek Fisher, best known for wearing No. 2 while winning five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and for really pissing off Matt Barnes, donned No. 12 for a grand total of 40 games in a career that spanned 1,546 regular-season and playoff contests over 18 seasons. After being traded by the Lakers and waived by the Houston Rockets, Fisher signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder and sported No. 37 on a playoff run that ended in the 2012 NBA Finals. Fisher returned to play parts of two more years in OKC, but turned his back on 37 to wear No. 6 instead.
Jack Smiley, a.ka. Smiles, wore No. 37 as a rookie with the Fort Wayne Pistons in the Basketball Association of America, just prior to its merger with the NBA. He averaged 6.7 points. More importantly, his college career at the University of Illinois was interrupted by two years as an artillery corporal in World War II, where he survived the Battle of the Bulge in an outfit that suffered a 90 percent casualty rate.
Nick Van Exel, a 1998 All-Star, wore No. 37 for one of his 13 NBA seasons — his 2003-04 campaign with the Golden State Warriors, a 37-win team for whom he averaged an inefficient 12.6 points. If only he had discovered iced coffee back then.
The Jersey Champion
Metta World Peace, the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year, a 2004 All-Star and participant in the Malice at the Palace, wore No. 37 for three of his six seasons with the Lakers, including the most important one. Wearing 37 in 2009-10, World Peace averaged 11 points, 4.3 rebounds and three assists during the regular season, and then made the biggest shot of the playoffs, putting the Boston Celtics on ice with a last-minute 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals that I still cannot explain.
A tip of the cap to The Panda’s Friend.
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