We are inside of one week 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 the final 55 days by arguing over who wore each jersey number best until we reach No. 00.
There are currently six days until the season opener on Tuesday. So, who wore No. 6 best?
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Andrew Bogut, the conspiracy theorist and No. 1 overall pick in 2005, donned No. 6 in eight of his 14 seasons, including a 2010 All-NBA campaign. He wore No. 12 with the Golden State Warriors en route to the 2015 title and an All-Defensive selection.
Tyson Chandler, the 2011 NBA champion and 2012 Defensive Player of the Year, has worn No. 6 for four different teams in nine of his 18 seasons, including his 2013 All-Star bid. I still can’t believe the Dallas Mavericks let him walk after winning a title.
Larry Costello, the NBA’s last two-handed set shooter, sported No. 6 for two of his six All-Star seasons. The man came out of retirement to play for the famed 1967 Philadelphia 76ers, tore his Achilles in January and returned that season to win a title.
Walter Davis, the 1978 Rookie of the Year and a six-time All-Star, wore No. 6 throughout a career gone awry. In exchange for immunity, he testified against several of his Phoenix Suns teammates about their drug use in 1987 — his final All-Star campaign between bouts with cocaine. Needless to say, his deal in Phoenix was not renewed in 1988. His number is retired there, though.
Avery Johnson, whose voice is extremely distinguishable, had his No. 6 retired by the San Antonio Spurs.
Eddie Jones, an underrated late 1990s/early 2000s guy, switched from No. 25 to No. 6 after two seasons when the Los Angeles Lakers retired Gail Goodrich’s number and then proceeded to make three All-Star appearances over his next four seasons.
Kenyon Martin, the No. 1 overall pick in 2000 despite breaking his leg prior to the draft, sported No. 6 for half his career, including his 2004 All-Star campaign. His knees kept him from consistent glory, but the man was not to be messed with.
Adam Morrison, the wildly mustachioed Gonzaga sensation, only wore No. 6 for two of his three healthy NBA seasons and carried Kobe Bryant to a championship both years. How dare you call this man a bust.
Willie Naulls, a four-time All-Star and member of the NBA’s first all-black starting five, sported No. 6 during his prime with the New York Knicks. He switched to No. 12 for the Boston Celtics in his final three seasons, all of which ended in championships.
Red Rocha, the first Hawaiian to play in the NBA, wore No. 6 for one of his two All-Star seasons.
Bonzi Wells, because long live the Jail Blazers.
Don Barksdale, a Hall of Famer and pioneering African-American player, was the first black NCAA All-American, first black member of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team and the first black NBA All-Star. He wore No. 6 as a rookie on the Baltimore Bullets. His No. 11 is retired by UCLA, and he wore No. 17 for his lone All-Star appearance in 1953.
Chuck Cooper, the first black player ever to be drafted in the NBA, only wore No. 6 for half of his sixth and final season.
Patrick Ewing, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 6 for a single sad season with the Orlando Magic before retiring at age 39.
Tom Gola, a Hall of Famer and La Salle legend, only turned to No. 6 for his final three-plus seasons with the New York Knicks. Four of his five All-Star appearances and his 1956 championship ring came in a No. 5 jersey for the Philadelphia Warriors.
Cliff Hagan, the Hall of Famer whose rights were traded by the Celtics for Bill Russell, wore Nos. 17 and 6 during his rookie year with the St. Louis Hawks in 1956-57. He made his first All-Star appearance and won a title wearing No. 16 the following season.
Buddy Jeannette, one of the game’s first professional stars and a five-time champion before the NBA was ever founded, toggled between three different numbers in his three NBA seasons on the Baltimore Bullets. No. 6 was just one of them.
Kristaps Porzingis, the 2018 All-Star who missed all of last season rehabbing a torn ACL, will wear No. 6 for the Dallas Mavericks, just as he did with the New York Knicks. It remains baffling that the Knicks traded their unicorn, although a rape allegation and Latvian street fight since the trade also raise red flags about where his career will head in Dallas. Regardless, he remains the best active player wearing No. 6, even if Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan are worthy jersey adversaries.
Julius Erving, a Hall of Famer and all-timer, switched from No. 32 with the ABA’s Virginia Squires and New York Nets to No. 6 with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. He was an All-Star in each of his 11 seasons in a No. 6 jersey, winning 1981 MVP honors and the 1983 championship. The Rucker Park legend transformed the game above the rim, and the fact that he might only be the third-best player to ever wear No. 6 means it rivals Nos. 23 and 33 for the best in history. His jersey is retired in Philadelphia.
LeBron James, another one of the greatest players in NBA history, made the argument for best-ever No. 6 a little easier by only wearing it for four seasons on the Miami Heat. Granted, he won two regular-season MVPs, two titles and two Finals MVP during that run, which included a 2012-13 campaign that may have been the peak of his remarkable powers. His jersey will be retired in Miami, and it will be interesting to see if he reverts to No. 6 on the Lakers when he relinquishes No. 23 to Anthony Davis in 2020.
Neil Johnston, a Hall of Famer and hook-shot pioneer who will be overshadowed by the two aforementioned names on this list, wore No. 6 for an eight-year career that came to an abrupt end when he suffered a knee injury at age 29. In the 1950s, he made six All-Star appearances and won a title in 1958. During his tenure, he led the league in scoring (three times), rebounding (1955), field-goal percentage (three times), minutes (twice) and win shares (five straight times). If only advanced stats were around then.
The Jersey Champion
Bill Russell, the greatest champion in the history of sports, wore No. 6 throughout a 13-year career that saw 12 All-Star appearances, 11 championships, five MVP awards and four rebounding titles. He might be the greatest defensive player the game has ever seen, and he is certainly its greatest winner, adding a 10-0 record in Game 7s to a ring count that cannot even fit on his fingers. There is a reason the Finals MVP trophy is named in his honor. And we have not even gotten to his achievements as a civil rights pioneer and mentorship advocate. The man was a distinguished guest of Martin Luther King Jr. at the “I Have A Dream” speech in 1963 and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama nearly 50 years later. Legend.
Take a bow, Russ.
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