Monday, March 19th, 2007 at 10:18 am  |  68 responses

Your number’s up

I gets digital like Bobby.

By Ryan Jones

This column was not inspired by what I hear is a pretty horribly bad Jim Carrey movie. Nor, I promise, is it a bite off a somewhat interesting New York Times story that ran last week. However, since my last post was about biting, I feel compelled to acknowledge both of these potential muses; in fact, I came up with this idea a few months ago. That doesn’t mean it’s actually a good idea, but it is mine, and I think it has potential. Reader participation will go a long in determining its worth.

And here it is: What’s the coolest number in NBA history? A simple question, probably deceptively so. So the more specific question is, which number — based on the all-time history of anyone and everyone who’s ever worn it — is the most indisputably dope? This might seem easy, but I’m going to demand more of those who choose to participate. I’m requiring you to get in-depth. Be thorough. Do your f*cking homework.

I’ll start with the easy, non-Jim Carrey inspired example: 23. Jordan and James alone make this one a contender. But here’s where it gets complicated. Are Mike and Bron too good to make a number “cool”? Does the ubiquity of this number over the past 15 years cost it cool points? And shouldn’t the fact that, say, Pete Chilcutt wore this number with the Utah Jazz count against it?

Or, say, 0. By the fact that the undeniably cool Gilbert Arenas wears it, zero is cool. But then, Soumaila Samake also wore 0, and one could argue (though I wouldn’t) that this might be enough to counteract Gil.

Then there’s Igor Rakocevic, who’s the only player I can think of (without thinking very hard, admittedly) who ever wore 36. Which may, in fact, make 36 the coolest number in NBA history by far.

Though not necessarily.

Regardless, I think you see my point.

So, have at it. Pick your number and make your case. Feel free to bring some historical context to bear — like, was 3 ever a cool number before AI? And do Dwyane Wade’s T-Mobile commercials mean it’s not cool anymore? — and anything else you can think of to make your sh*t compelling. Just don’t let me down.

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  • http://mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Max Airington

    44. Zeke from Cabin Creek and the Pistol should have made this one the official number of ill white boys everywhere by now.
    Honorable mention to 91,cause they wouldn’t let Rodman wear 69.

  • Chris

    I think the number 23 should have been retired by every team in the league, like the miami heat did. There’s something not quite right seeing a Devin Brown, or Kevin Martin, or any other mediocre 2 guard wearing 23. Oh and changing numbers in the middle of your career without changing teams is just dumb

  • http://mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Max Airington


  • http://slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    AC Green

  • http://mvn.com/nba-bulls/ Sebastian

    You gotta go with 0. Not 00. Just plain old 0 the one Gil made famous. Just the whole backstory around that makes it a cool number.

  • Detroit11

    Ryan, I can’t believe you didn’t realize that Sheed wears #36. And that makes #36 gangsta…..

  • http://slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    F*ck. Well, like I said, I didn’t think very hard. I am embarrassed.

  • http://slamonline.com Sam Rubenstein

    Your punishment for not knowing Rasheed is #36 is the photo of Igor’s nipple.
    (I have a getty images password now. It is awesome.)

  • Ron

    My pick is 33. Kareem, Bird, Ewing, Pippen, and Grant Hill in the early days. Those are just the ones I remember. I’m sure some other readers can add to this list.

  • http://slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Um, thanks, Sam?

  • That Guy

    Didn’t Rasheed Wallace wear 36 for the 1 game he played with the hawks?

  • maio

    One classic I-Rak moment was when he made a bad play and Flip was like “take your time Igor!” And Igor called time-out.
    We all know about Sheed so 36 needs to be up there. What did Shawn Bradley wear again? Wasn’t it 76 (also his height)his rookie year with the Sixers?

  • Richie

    greg ostertag wore zero.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    I prefer the #00 to Gil’s single, solitary zero.

  • Colin Furness

    Pretty sure the Chief wore number 0 as well, I guess it’s not 00 but still the all time leading fouler has to get some respect…

  • b55

    it’s a toss-up between Rodman’s 91
    and AK’s 47

  • Nadav Mor

    “Jordan and James” – blasphamy. Jordan only.
    Sheed’s 36
    Rodman’s 81
    White Chocolate 55
    MJ wearing 12 in Orlando, without a name on it, after his jersey was stolen before the game.

  • c1

    I say 40, as the size of Kemp’s family

  • allenp

    That is a hot number. It looks hot on jersey’s, plus it gets worn by the best guards.

  • http://slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Parish was most definitely 00, Colin. If you’re over 25 years old, you have no excuse for not knowing that.
    Also, some of you guys (b55, Nadav, etc) seem to be missing the point — the coolest random individual number that one guy has worn is interesting, but this is about the cumulative coolness of a number over time. It’s like Dad always said: Make sure you read the instructions before you try putting your toys together.

  • Rodney

    #2. Stacy “Plastic Man” Augmon, Larry “Grandmama” Johnson. Just those 2 alone spell cool.

    #4. Webber, Dumars, Bosh. Nate “Lil 50″. Period.

    #32. Miner, Magic, Barkley {Houston}(in honor of Magic), Shaq (because they weren’t going to un-retire Kareem’s, he wore 34), Amare, Malone, Billy Cunningham. That is a pretty cool group to be a part of.

  • Detroit11

    Well, it’s history has been short(very much so), but Webber’s #84 is dope just for the sheer randomness of the number. Rodman’s # 91 is also dope for the same reason……

  • Jory

    Who do you think of when you see this??


    Immediately Recognizable – David Robinson. Maybe not the coolest cat in the L – but whenever I hear “number five oh” I think of only one player. That makes this number great.

  • Matthew

    Employee #8. Nobody has ever had a commercial made about their number except ‘Toine “i’d rather be shooting 4′s” Walker. And Ryan’s favorite player used to wear this number as well. Therefore, #8 has officially been DQ’d as the coolest number.

  • http://slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    I like your logic, Matthew.
    And for the record, I’m a little disappointed nobody has said 6 yet. I mean, Doc and Russell alone…

  • Nadav Mor

    make sure you ask Lang if Rasheed has ever worn 36. *snap*
    Id’e say 1 is pretty dope, for the simple fact that Mougsy wore it.

  • seppo

    21 is the magic number. Blackjack, drinking age, weight of the soul, Nique, Big Ticket, Big Fundamental.

  • seppo

    Royal Ivey wears 36. Could also be the number of total points he´s scored this season. Not sure about that, though.

  • http://myspace.com/bodiebarnett jbn74sb


  • Menudo Terremoto Williams

    Shawnelle Scott wore #36 in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs.

    I thought y’all were down with NYC ballers…

  • oliver

    32- magic

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    32 also belonged to Bill Walton and Kevin McHale. But I might have to back 33.

  • Nadav Mor

    32 ricky davis

  • galo

    77 – George Muresan (who was actually 7’7″). Also, 100 (the number of possible NBA jersey numbers, 0 to 99) minus 77 gives 23. i’m done.

  • galo
  • http://slamonline.com mutoni

    whoever is the first player to come out rocking roman numerals will have the coolest number evaaarrrr

  • OmegaShogun

    91 – because Rodman wore it and its 13 (unlucky number) times 7 (the perfect number supposedly)
    2 – There’s a stigma associated with this number b/c wants to be #1 and not one behind. When a player wears that number, its like they’re saying “F— popular belief, Imma do me!”

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    The other ill white boy number is 17. Hondo and Mullin. And 2, hard to think of many No. 2′s. Webber when he first came into the L, Moses…

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    And for 44, don’t forget Dan Issel, the Iceman and (cross-sports, but the hell with it) Hammerin’ Hank and Reggie Jax.

  • Harlem_World

    For player credentials 32 and 33 were always hot, and the first to go. 23, obviously. Random number, used to be number 9 (jordans olympic vest). 7 was dope, if any of y’all know anything about KJ.

  • frenchdude

    yeah sheed’s 36 buyt about 23 we can argue that depsite jordan because I haven’t think about Lebron for it or even LWilliams because it is to obvious that they picked the number for Jordan. no I was thinking about the fact Kobe’s father was 23 and that by changing to 24 kobe not only meant that he ould be the next Jordan or Jordan + 1 but that we was the following of his father or the upgrade of his father

  • frenchdude

    and I think the coolest number ever is 00, no question you gotta be seriously twisted to wear 00

  • dahoopstar

    ur all crazy. the number is 1. its symbolizes for whoever wears it that they are numero uno. #1 on the team, #1 in the league, just the best period. why u think amare changed to it.

  • ThePerfectStorm

    42 the answer to the meaning of everthing plus some guy in miami “James Posey” rocks this joint Wah

  • http://bcbarbershop.com Ben Couch

    Slam No. 1 coverboy Larry Johnson might be a good place to start that No. 2 list, Russ …

  • Simon

    21,23,32,33,34. not sure about the order tho. The amount of great players that have worn these numbers over the years makes them the coolest numbers. Anyone who know anything about the nba over the last 10-20 years knows this

  • http://www.postup.redinsect.com Lemon

    #15 for Sprewell

    But yeah, pretty hard to go past 91.
    And 77 is cool as fuck too.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Yeah, I forgot LJ. And 42 is dope beyond Posey, obviously—Big Game James, Elton Brand, Nate Thurmond, Connie Hawkins, and (of course) Vin Baker. Not to mention Jackie Robinson.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    13! Wilt Chamberlain, Steve Nash, Bobby Phills (RIP) and the illest PG ever, my main man Mark Jackson.

  • Boing Dynasty

    i remember a non-descript PG (10 day contract,probubly) for the hawks(Jaque Vaugh?) wearing “99″, and tony delk started at the 2 in “00″

  • chronically_ill

    13- Steve Nash and Mark Jackson

  • chronically_ill

    9- Nick Van Exel, back in his Laker days

  • whooo!

    doesn’t yao rock 11 cuz it looks like a chinese character or something? if a number looks like something meaningful in your dialect, then that’s money.

    47 is the best, but only for andrei kirilenko. i mean, they refer to him as ak-47 on national tv for cryin out loud! when was the last athlete who’s nickname was a gun? our own country’s gun no less! i just love the fact that he got away with it.

  • Slobodan Chutzpah

    And speaking of numbers, have you ever noticed that the Celtics have so many retired numbers that their current roster is wearing pretty weird, scattered numbers? I’m kind of partial to 55, mostly because Deke wears it and he’s pretty much the coolest individual ever in the L. Also, and this is may be a pretty obvious one, Iverson alone has made 3 such an iconic number nowadays associated with fierceness, astonishing skills and plain simple cool that it is rather hard to leave that one out despite its familiarity. I think it’s probably the coolest NBA number for the post-MJ generation.

  • http://www.reignman.com German Reignman

    # 40
    you can never go wrong with the Reignman ….
    or on a more sad note Jason Collier R.I.P.

  • Matthew

    Didn’t Kirilenko’s former teammate Quincy Lewis convince AK to get the #47 just so they could call him that?? I thought I remembered reading about that somewhere, maybe in SLAM.

  • J

    What about 86 for the draft

  • Zion


  • http://slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    13 is a contender

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Matthew, yes it was Quincy Lewis who came up with the AK47 thing. Worked out well for Quincy. And I know we’re not talking baseball here, but anyone remember that season with San Diego when Benito Santiago wore the number 01 for the entire year? Anyone who can wear a two-digit number beginning with a 0 gets props. In a related story, that same season my friend Pat asked our HS baseball coach for the number 010. The coach kicked him out of the room.

  • b55

    hm did i just get moderated, interesting.

    other choices then:
    23 – everyone who has ever heard of basketball associates that with one guy, and it’s not lebron.
    and the sequence 32-33-34.

  • Big L

    I’m reachin a bit on this but I would have to say on a basketball jersey it is #32. Each digit is dope in its own way with #3 (AI, Dwade, Drazen Petrovic, Dennis Johnson) and #2 (Alex English, Moses Malone). The players that have worn #32 include: Dr. J, Magic, Shaq, Walton, McHale, Karl Malone.Reversed is 23 with MJ and LeBron. Multiplied is 6 which is Russell. Added up is 5 with Baron and JKidd. Subtracted is 1 with Penny, Big O, Tiny Archibald. So mathmatically and by appearance, #32 is the best.

  • michael evangelista

    #21 most cool jersey # for me ‘nique alone make it so darn cool it won’t hurt with kg rocking it. that # is so versatile that even a dumb player would look cool wearing it.

  • James

    #22 = Clyde and Dream. END OF ARGUMENT!

  • http://www.reignman.com German Reignman

    Big L, you`ve killed the whole argument … too bad the month never has 32 days or you would have come up with a decent conspiracy theory …

  • http://slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    … or a bad dyslexic Jim Carrey movie.

  • Big L

    HA! Man, I was just trying to think a little outside thats all. The thing about #32 is that it seems to fit big and small players. #50 looks right on Robinson but not on Maggette. #1 looked good for Penny but no so much on STAT (originally #32). In other sports, 20s seem be good in football, and single numbers in baseball.

  • Rocky Cabayan

    35!!! Kevin Durant, Mark Madsen, Chris Kaman