We are a day from 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 is only one day until the season opener on Tuesday. So, who wore No. 1 best?
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Muggsy Bogues, the shortest player ever in the NBA and a member of the greatest high school team in history.
Terrell Brandon, who only wore No. 1 for two seasons and made the All-Star roster both times. Maybe he should have worn it more often. Brandon was also the victim of a wild extortion attempt in which his friend caught the perpetrator red-handed.
Chris Childs, who twice punched Kobe Bryant in the face.
Phil Ford, the 1979 Rookie of the Year and an All-NBA pick that same season, whose career fell off a cliff three seasons into it.
Kevin Porter, the forgotten point guard prodigy, who led the league in assists four times.
Rod Strickland, a 1998 All-NBA selection and the godfather to Kyrie Irving.
Gus Williams, a.k.a. The Wizard, a two-time All-Star and 1979 champion. His No. 1 was retired by the Seattle SuperSonics.
Tiny Archibald, a Hall of Famer, only wore No. 1 for three of his 13 seasons. He actually wore No. 10 more often than No. 1 for the franchise that would become the Sacramento Kings, including the 1973 campaign that made him the only player to lead the league in both scoring and assists in the same season. Still, they retired his No. 1, which he wore for two of his six All-Star bids.
Roger Brown, a Hall of Famer who was once erroneously banned by the NBA, only sported No. 1 for a portion of his eighth and final ABA campaign. His No. 35 is retired by the Indiana Pacers, with whom he was a four-time All-Star and three time champion.
Maurice Cheeks, a Hall of Famer and the NBA’s one-time steals record-holder, donned No. 1 for a season and a half with the New York Knicks, soon after his run of four All-Star appearances and a title in a since-retired No. 10 Philadelphia 76ers jersey.
Devin Booker, the youngest player ever to score 60 points and the youngest to score 50 in consecutive games (all three losses), is now easily the best player wearing No. 1 today, especially since D’Angelo Russell switched from No. 1 to No. 0 with the Golden State Warriors. That would have been a more interesting discussion, what with Booker being among the league’s most electric scorers on terrible Phoenix Suns teams and Russell emerging as an All-Star last season for a playoff team in Brooklyn.
Chauncey Billups, a.k.a. Mr. Big Shot, who will likely get into the Hall of Fame eventually, wore No. 1 in 12 of his 17 seasons, including all five of his All-Star appearances and his title run with the Detroit Pistons in 2004, when he took home Finals MVP honors. His No. 1 is retired by the Pistons.
Chris Bosh, a future Hall of Famer, donned No. 1 for a six-year stint with the Miami Heat that would have been longer had it not been for the blood-clotting issues that forced him into retirement at age 31. He made six of his 11 All-Star appearances in a No. 1 jersey and won a pair of rings alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. His jersey was retired by the Heat this past season.
Anfernee Hardaway, a.k.a. Penny, whose career was bound for the Hall of Fame before knee injuries sent a supernova career spiraling, sported No. 1 for all but his failed comeback attempt in Miami. What might have been for the Orlando Magic had Shaquille O’Neal never left and Penny stayed healthy. As it were, Hardaway made four All-Star teams in his No. 1 Magic jersey.
Oscar Robertson, a Hall of Famer, sported No. 1 for his final four seasons on the Milwaukee Bucks, following a 10-year run in a No. 14 Cincinnati Royals jersey. He only made two of his 12 All-Star appearances on the Bucks, but Milwaukee retired his No. 1.
Derrick Rose, the 2009 Rookie of the Year and 2011 MVP, wore No. 1 for his meteoric rise with the Chicago Bulls, before knee injuries and a rape allegation derailed his career. He has worn No. 25 for the bulk of his time since being traded by the Bulls.
Amar’e Stoudemire, the 2003 Rookie of the Year and a six-time All-Star, donned No. 1 for the bulk of his 14-year career. Stoudemire wore No. 32 for his first four seasons, including the ROY campaign and his first All-Star bid, but switched to No. 1 as a rebirth of sorts after a knee injury claimed all but three games of his 2005-06 season. He too suffered from chronic knee problems, which, when you run through this list, is a clear sign that people should probably stay away from No. 1 altogether.
The Jersey Champion
Tracy McGrady, the Hall of Famer, wore No. 1 for all but the season he switched to No. 3 in an effort to raise awareness for his humanitarian efforts in Darfur. Wearing No. 1 for the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets, he captured the 2001 Most Improved Player award, won a pair of scoring titles and made seven straight All-Star appearances. His number is retired in neither place. As is the case for many of his challengers for this spot, McGrady’s career was cut short by knee injuries, but he sustained a level of greatness in a No. 1 jersey that nobody else can match, even if injuries to others prevented him from enjoying playoff success.
Take a bow, T-Mac.
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