NBA Countdown: Which player wore No. 45 best in league history?

Which NBA player wore No. 45 best?
Which NBA player wore No. 45 best?

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 45 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 45 best?

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Shoutouts

Henry Bibby, a rookie on the 1973 champion New York Knicks and the father of Mike Bibby, wore No. 45 for a single season with the New Orleans Jazz.

Shawn Bradley, all 7-foot-6 of him, wore No. 45 for two years with the New Jersey Nets after starting his career wearing No. 76 — presumably in honor of his height?

DeJuan Blair, who played without ACLs.

Chuck Person, the Rifleman.

Bob Rule, a 1970 All-Star with the Seattle SuperSonics who started the 1970-71 campaign averaging 29.8 points and 11.5 rebounds before tearing his Achilles. He was never the same, which is a running theme we should remember about Achilles.

Gerald Wallacethe human didgeridoo and a 2010 All-Star, did not switch from No. 3 to 45 until the final four years of his career, when he was an albatross contract.

Kevin Willis played 21 NBA seasons, making the 1992 All-Star team, but he only wore No. 45 for one of them — his swan song at age 44 on the Dallas Mavericks.

Caveats

Michael Jordan wore No. 45 briefly upon returning from his minor-league baseball career in 1995 — and then switched back to No. 23 midway through the playoffs, after the Orlando Magic’s Nick Anderson picked his pocket, declaring afterwards, “No. 45 doesn't explode like No. 23 used to. No. 45 is not No. 23. I couldn't have done that to No. 23.” And we can’t give him the No. 45 crown as a result.

Adrian Dantley, the only other Hall of Famer to ever sport No. 45, likewise only wore the number for a spell — two-plus seasons with the Detroit Pistons after all six of his All-Star campaigns. The two-time scoring champion did average 20.3 points per game during his Detroit tenure, but that falls just short of No. 45 greatness.

Currently

Donovan Mitchell, easily. The Utah Jazz stud and USA Basketball star has a real shot to be the greatest No. 45 in NBA history, but he’s not there yet. Something else to strive toward, in addition to gold medal and championship aspirations this year.

Challengers

Phil Chenier wore No. 45 for the entirety of his Bullets career, which spanned eight-plus seasons and saw a trio of All-Star selections. He suffered a season-ending back injury in the 1977-78 season that cost him the playoffs, and the Bullets won a title despite his absence. He still got a ring but never reverted to form post-surgery.

A.C. Green, a 1989 All-Defensive selection, 1990 All-Star, three-time champion and career-long virgin, wore No. 45 through it all in a career that spanned 16 seasons.

Geoff Petrie, the 1971 Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star, wore No. 45 for all six of his NBA seasons. He too suffered a career-ending knee injury at an early age, which is starting to feel like a reason people should avoid No. 45, but Petrie reemerged as a two-time Executive of the Year winner with the Sacramento Kings.

Rik Smits, a.k.a. The Dunking Dutchman, switched to No. 45 two seasons into a 12-year career that featured trips to the 1998 All-Star Game and 2000 Finals. Again, foot problems ended his career at age 33, but we’ll always have that sweet mullet.

The Jersey Champion

Rudy Tomjanovich wore No. 45 for the entirety of an 11-year career with the Rockets, which included five All-Star campaigns. Four of those came consecutively, before Kermit Washington nearly ended his career — and life — with a punch to the face that shook the NBA forever. (Seriously, No. 45 should come with a warning.) He returned to play four more seasons, making one more All-Star roster, before calling it quits. Rudy returned to Houston to coach the Rockets to back-to-back titles in the mid-’90s, and a Hall of Fame case could be made for him as both a player and a coach. His No. 45 is retired both by the University of Michigan and the Rockets. For that, Tomjanovich is the champion of a number that may be as cursed as any.

Cheerio, Rudy T.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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