We are inside of one month 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 11 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 11 best?
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Larry Brown, the Hall of Fame coach, wore No. 11 for six different teams in his six ABA seasons, making three All-Star appearances, winning the 1969 ABA title with the Oakland Oaks and earning the nickname “Next Town” Brown.
Chuck Cooper, a Hall of Famer and the first black player drafted into the NBA, wore No. 11 in his historic debut with the Celtics.
Jamal Crawford, the three-time Sixth Man of the Year, has worn No. 11 in 15 of his 19 NBA seasons.
Glen Davis, a.k.a. Big Baby, an NBA and BIG3 champion.
Monta Ellis, the 2007 Most Improved Player and a dividing line in the debate between analytics and fun.
Jumpin’ Johnny Green, who wore No. 11 for the New York Knicks for three of his four All-Star appearances.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a.k.a. Big Z, a two-time All-Star and the namesake for a rule that prevents teams from reacquiring a player it traded during the same league year. His No. 11 is retired by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Caldwell Jones, Charles Jones, Major Jones and Wil Jones, four brothers who all wore No. 11 during their NBA careers.
Bill Keller, an Indiana prep star who helped lead the Pacers to three ABA championships.
Earl Lloyd, a.k.a. The Big Cat, a Hall of Famer and the first black player to appear in an NBA game, donned No. 11 for a six-year run with the Syracuse Nationals that included the 1955 title. It was in a No. 15 jersey he first played for the Washington Capitols.
Frank Selvy, a two-time All-Star and the only Division I college basketball player to score 100 points in a single game.
Bob Verga, a 1970 ABA All-Star for the Carolina Cougars.
Chuck Williams, two-time ABA All-Star, one great Afro.
Walt Frazier, the Hall of Fame player and dresser, wore No. 11 for three seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, after his perennial All-Star run in a No. 10 New York Knicks jersey.
Gail Goodrich, a Hall of Famer and key contributor to the 1972 champion Los Angeles Lakers’ 33-game win streak, wore No. 11 for his first three seasons, before ascending to NBA stardom in L.A. wearing a No. 25 jersey.
Karl Malone, a Hall of Famer and Dream Team member, sported No. 11 for his lone season with the Lakers — an unfortunate one that resulted in a blood feud with Kobe Bryant.
Charlie Scott, a Hall of Famer, wore No. 11 for the second half of a 10-year career. His lone championship came in a No. 11 Celtics jersey in 1976, but he wore No. 33 for his ABA Rookie of the Year campaign and all five of his All-Star appearances.
Klay Thompson, the five-time All-Star and three-time champion, gets the nod here as the active jersey champion over Kyrie Irving, if only because he has sported No. 11 for the entirety of his eight-year career and Irving is entering only his third season in the jersey. Thompson, now nursing an ACL injury, will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history.
Paul Arizin, a Hall of Famer and jump-shot pioneer, sported No. 11 for the entirety of a decade-long career with the Philadelphia Warriors that included the 1956 NBA championship. He was named an All-Star every season, a streak interrupted only by two prime years spent in service to the Marines during the Korean War. A Philadelphia native, he hung up his shoes simply because he did not want to move with the Warriors to San Francisco, despite averaging a stellar 21.9 points per game in his final season.
Bob Davies, a.k.a. the Harrisburg Houdini, a Hall of Famer and behind-the-back dribbling pioneer, donned No. 11 throughout a career that started late due to his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He led the Rochester Royals to NBL and NBA titles, capturing NBL MVP honors and making four NBA All-Star appearances. His No. 11 is retired by the Sacramento Kings.
Elvin Hayes, a Hall of Famer, sported No. 11 for 12 of his 16 NBA seasons and 11 of his 12 All-Star campaigns. One of the first African-Americans to play at the University of Houston, along with Don Chaney, Hayes wore his college No. 44 in his two tours of duty with the Houston Rockets. It was in a No. 11 San Diego Rockets jersey, however, that he led the league in scoring as a rookie and rebounding as a sophomore. He again led the NBA in rebounding and won his lone title in a No. 11 Bullets jersey. Only Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finished their careers with more rebounds. Good company.
Bob McAdoo, a Hall of Famer, played 21 seasons between the NBA and Italy’s top professional league, winning titles in each. He wore No. 11 in all but one of his 14 NBA seasons. Wearing No. 11, he made all five of his All-Star appearances, captured his three consecutive scoring titles, won two championships and earned both 1973 Rookie of the Year and 1975 MVP honors.
Yao Ming, a Hall of Famer and Chinese Basketball Association legend whose name has made headlines again in light of recent events, sported No. 11 for his eight All-Star appearances in eight seasons on the Rockets. His jersey is retired in Houston.
Arvydas Sabonis, a Hall of Famer who might be both the greatest EuroLeague player and best-passing big man in history, wore No. 11 for his seven seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, which unfortunately came after his highly decorated prime abroad.
The Jersey Champion
Isiah Thomas, the Hall of Famer blackballed from the Dream Team, donned No. 11 for the entirety of his 13-year career, including 12 All-Star appearances, back-to-back championships and the 1990 Finals MVP award. Post-playing careers aside, an argument could probably be made for any one of the aforementioned challengers as the greatest No. 11 in history, but only Thomas went toe-to-toe with three of the greatest teams in NBA history — the 1980s Celtics and Lakers and the 1990s Bulls. Pound for pound, Thomas was one of the greatest to ever play the game, and his performance on one foot in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals will tell you all about the heart with which he played. His No. 11 is obviously retired by the Detroit Pistons.
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