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 41 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 41 best?
Les Hunter, a two-time ABA All-Star, whose No. 41 is retired by Loyola University in Chicago, where he led the Ramblers to the 1963 NCAA championship. For trivia heads, his missed floater led to “The Shot Heard ‘Round the Basketball World.”
Mitch Kupchak, a three-time champion as a player and contributor to five more titles as an executive for the Los Angeles Lakers. He wore No. 41 in L.A. in 1981, injured his knee and did not return until late 1983, when he reverted to No. 25 — the jersey he wore for the Washington Bullets. Turns out 41 wasn’t so great for him.
Michael Olowokandi, one of the wildest No. 1 overall picks in NBA history. Born in Nigeria, he did not play basketball until age 18, walked onto the University of the Pacific team and emerged four years later as the top pick in 1999 — the same draft that produced future Hall of Famers Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce. Before calling it quits on a middling career, he wore No. 41 for two years in Boston, where he averaged 1.7 points for a team that won 24 games in his final season.
Will Perdue, an unlikely four-time champion, won three titles with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls sporting No. 32 before being traded to the San Antonio Spurs, where he ultimately won his fourth ring in 1999 wearing No. 41. That trade also sent Dennis Rodman back to Chicago, where Rodman won three more titles himself.
James Posey, a two-time champion and legendary hugger.
Win Wilfong, a 1958 NBA champion whose name fit that bill.
Stew Johnson, an actual basketball trailblazer, only wore No. 41 for part of one of his 11 ABA seasons — and none of his three All-Star campaigns. Great name, too.
Stacey King, a three-time champion as one of Jordan’s “garbagemen,” only wore No. 41 for five games with the Boston Celtics in 1996, the last of his eight seasons. He is now a Bulls analyst, churning out catchphrases and bungling MVP’s names.
Bill Laimbeer, a four-time All-Star, two-time champion and legendary villain, wore No. 41 for his first two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, before being traded in 1982 to the Detroit Pistons, where his career quickly took off in a No. 40 jersey.
Swen Nater, the 1974 ABA Rookie of the Year and a two-time ABA All-Star, only turned to No. 41 in the final year of his 11-year professional career, much of which featured an incredible mustache. The Dutchman also backed up Bill Walton on a couple NCAA title teams at UCLA, and of course Walton has a story about Swen.
Curtis Rowe, a 1976 All-Star and another three-time champ at UCLA, wore No. 41 for three seasons with the Celtics in the late 1970s, when his career was in decline.
Juancho and Guillermo Hernangomez, the Hernangomi, share duties as the best active Nos. 41, wearing the number for the Denver Nuggets and Charlotte Hornets, respectively. Nikola Mirotic, who wore No. 41 for the Milwaukee Bucks last season, opened the door for the Spanish brothers by spurning the NBA for the EuroLeague.
Glen Rice, a three-time All-Star, 2000 NBA champion and one-time Sarah Palin fan, sported No. 41 for the entirety of a 15-year career that spanned six teams. His number is retired by the University of Michigan, where he also won an NCAA title.
Wes Unseld, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 41 for his entire 13-year career with three iterations of the Bullets — Baltimore, Capital and Washington. He won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in 1969, made five trips to the All-Star Game and captured Finals MVP honors en route to the 1978 NBA title.
Jamaal Wilkes, a Hall of Famer, did not wear No. 41 in his eight seasons with the Lakers, for whom he made a pair of All-Star teams and won three titles, but he did wear it in three years with the Warriors, with whom he earned a ring, 1975 Rookie of the Year honors, a 1976 All-Star selection and a couple All-Defensive nods.
The Jersey Champion
Dirk Nowitzki, a future Hall of Famer, wore No. 41 for the entirety of a legendary 21-year career with the Dallas Mavericks. The greatest European player and best-shooting 7-footer in basketball history, Dirk sported 41 through all 14 of his All-Star seasons, including the 2006-07 MVP and 2011 Finals MVP campaigns. His route to No. 41 came courtesy of Robert Pack, who reportedly told Nowitzki, “I’m not giving my number to no rookie,” leading Dirk to pick 41 over the 14 he wore in Germany.
Wir gratulieren, Dirk.
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