DimeMag

Who Are The Best Players By Jersey Number In NBA History?

At first glance, this is pretty great. It’s colorful, it’s neatly arranged, some of the big names are there, yada yada yada. By all accounts, Mitchell & Ness did a wonderful job putting it together. They deserve kudos for the hard work and, hang on, is that Kwame Brown at No. 38? Hold up just a damn minute. This just went from wonderful to terrible in a heartbeat.

And why is Metta World Peace on here four times? Am I taking crazy pills? Did Metta World Peace all of a sudden morph into the artist formerly known as Oscar Robertson? What is this nonsense?

Let’s take a closer look at this thing:

Everything looks fine and dandy until No. 11 and Karl Malone.

Here’s their explanation:

Malone wore No. 11 with the Los Angeles Lakers in the final season of his 18-year career. “The Mailman” enjoyed a fruitful career having been a 2x NBA MVP, 14x NBA All-Star, 2x NBA All-Star Game MVP, 11x All-NBA First Team selection, 3x NBA All-Defensive team selection, and finishing as the Utah Jazz’s all-time leading scorer.

What in the hell are you guys doing? Malone wore No. 11 for one goddamn year! Meanwhile, Isiah Thomas, probably the greatest little man of all-time, a 12-time All-Star, a Hall of Famer, a member of the top 50 players in NBA history, and nah, forget that guy. Let’s put in the dipsh*t who wore No. 11 for 42 games.

I don’t normally call for someone’s firing, but go ahead and give that guy his walking papers, Mitchell & Ness. Or make them watch film of Zeke carving up some of the best players in the game. Then, fast forward to Malone choking away every great opportunity for those Jazz teams. Then, for good measure, watch the Pistons destroy him in the 2004 NBA Finals.

But sure, let’s give him No. 11 because of this:

Some notes: First, there are 14 numbers that have never been worn in the NBA. Second, we decided that any player who ever wore the number was eligible to be the best at that number. For example, Karl Malone wore #32 in Utah for 18 seasons before he moved to Los Angeles to wear #11, so when picking #11 we considered The Mailman and his amazing career.


The Kwame Brown problem.

There are eight players in NBA history who wore No. 38. Only one of them was drafted first overall. Only one of them asked to not have the ball in his hands. Only one of them was ripped to shreds by a teammate in the media.

Kobe Bryant:

“I got to say, it was tough doing it that year. I was playing with guys, God bless them — God bless them — but Kwame Brown. Smush Parker. We had one game right before…by the way, what I say here, I say directly to them, see what I’m saying, I don’t talk behind people’s back. Things that I say to you, I’m comfortable saying this to them and I’ve said this to them…But like, the game before we traded for Pau, were playing Detroit and I had like 40 points towards the end of the game. This is back when Detroit had Rasheed [Wallace], Chauncey [Billups] and those guys, so we had no business being in the game. So down the stretch of the game, they put in a box and one. So I’m surrounded by these players, Detroit players, and Kwame is under the basket, all by himself. Literally, like all by himself. So I pass him the ball, he bobbled it and it goes out of bounds.

“So we go back to the timeout and I’m [upset], right? He goes, ‘I was wide open.’ ‘Yeah, I know.’ This is how I’m talking to him, like, during the game. I said, ‘You’re going to be open again, Kwame, because Rasheed is just totally ignoring you.’ He said, ‘Well, if I’m open don’t throw it to me.’ I was like, ‘Huh?’ He said, ‘Don’t throw it to me.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, well, ‘I’m nervous. If I catch it and they foul me, I won’t make the free throws.’ I said, ‘Hell no!’ ”

“I go to Phil [Jackson], I say, ‘Hey Phil, take him out of the game.’ He’s like, ‘Nah, let him figure it out.’ So, we lose the game, I go the locker room, I’m steaming. Steaming. I’m furious. Then, finally I get a call, they said, ‘You know what, we got something that’s happening with Pau.’ I was like, ‘Alright. Cool.’…That’s what I had to deal with the whole year.”

This remains the greatest (and most polite) public takedown.

The greatness of No. 33.

The biggest debate online wasn’t Karl Malone or Kwame Brown. It was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over Larry Bird. As if Kareem was Chuck Nevitt, riding the bench to titles or something. Kareem rarely gets mentioned as the G.O.A.T., and that’s a shame. For the better part of a decade, he was the best player in the NBA. He was the MVP of the league six times in a nine-year span. In short, he was the Michael Jordan of the 1970s.

What are some of your problems with the list?

(Via: Mitchell & Ness)

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