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 40 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 40 best?
George Carter, aka “Dirty Dingus” (for reasons surely tied to the terrible 1970 comedy “Dirty Dingus Magee,” starring Frank Sinatra), wore seven different numbers in eight ABA seasons, but sported No. 40 for his lone All-Star campaign.
Calbert Cheaney, a Hoosiers legend, wore No. 40 in 11 of his 13 NBA seasons, and I could have sworn he was going to be a perennial All-Star coming out of Indiana.
Glen Combs, aka “The Kentucky Rifle,” donned No. 40 with the Utah Stars, a three-year run that included two All-Star appearances and the 1971 ABA title.
James Donaldson, a 1988 All-Star, wore No. 40 for the first 11 of his 14 NBA seasons. The 7-foot-2 Englishman once said of his 1975 trade from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Dallas Mavericks, “I had died and went to heaven.”
Dino Radja, a Hall of Famer for his legendary international contributions, wore No. 40 for the entirety of his short-lived NBA career — a productive four-year stretch with the Boston Celtics in the mid-1990s despite a pack-a-week smoking habit. He sported No. 14 for Yugoslavia, leading his country to a couple handfuls of medals, including a pair of EuroBasket golds and a silver at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Kurt Thomas, who wore No. 40 for eight different teams during an 18-year career.
The Zeller bros, Cody, Luke and Tyler, all of whom wore No. 40 at some point.
James Edwards, a three-time champion with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls, wore No. 40 for six of his 19 seasons, none of which ended in a title.
Michael Finley, a two-time All-Star with the Dallas Mavericks and 2007 NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs, only switched from No. 4 to 40 in the last half of his final season — a Finals run with the Boston Celtics at age 36 in 2010.
Les Hunter, a two-time ABA All-Star, is more of a No. 41 legend, switching to 40 for a season-plus with the New York Nets — after reaching his peak as a player.
Brad Miller, a two-time All-Star, wore No. 40 for his first three-plus seasons, before switching to No. 52 and emerging as a contributor to the 2000s Sacramento Kings. We have already discussed his Scrappy Doo tattoo and cornrows in this space.
Levern Tart, a two-time ABA All-Star, switched teams and numbers a half-dozen times in a four-year career, and neither of his peak seasons came in a No. 40 jersey.
Harrison Barnes, a 2015 NBA champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist, is the current jersey king, wearing No. 40 for all seven of his seasons. Shouts, though, to Udonis Haslem, who has stuck with No. 40 on his way to three rings in Miami.
Byron Beck, a two-time All-Star, played every year of the ABA’s existence in Denver, wearing No. 40, a solid mustache and the proverbial hard hat. The bruising big man’s jersey was the first retired by the Denver Nuggets in 1977.
Bill Laimbeer, a four-time All-Star and two-time champion, wore No. 40 for the entirety of his 12-plus seasons on the Detroit Pistons, for whom he became the ultimate villain in the “Bad Boys” years, throwing elbows and fists with regularity.
The Jersey Champion
Shawn Kemp, aka “Reign Man,” a six-time All-Star who would be in the Hall of Fame had his career not fallen off so sharply following the 1998-99 NBA lockout. One of the most vicious dunkers in NBA history, Kemp wore No. 40 for all eight of seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics, including a trip to the 1996 Finals, and his jersey would surely be retired today had the franchise not moved to Oklahoma City.
Reign on, man.
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