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 three days until the season opener on Tuesday. So, who wore No. 3 best?
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Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, the 1993 Most Improved Player and a pioneer in the cause to call attention to oppression during the national anthem. He is still playing at the age of 50 in the BIG3.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, a 2002 All-Star who scored 10,000 points before turning 26 but had his career derailed by knee issues.
Dana Barros, an All-Star and the Most Improved Player in 1995 whose career 3-point percentage was 41.1 percent.
Caron Butler, a.k.a. Tuff Juice, a two-time All-Star, 2011 NBA champion and Mountain Dew addict.
Ernie Calverley, a 1947 All-Basketball Association of America pick who led the BAA in assists for the Providence Steamrollers.
Boris Diaw, the 2006 Most Improved Player, 2014 champion and author of the greatest pre-draft workout in history.
Craig Ehlo, posterized by a jump shot.
Dale Ellis, the 1987 Most Improved Player, a 1989 All-Star and a 3-point contest champion.
Steve Francis, a.k.a. Stevie Franchise, the 2000 Rookie of the Year and a three-time All-Star who fell on hard times.
Stephen Jackson, a.k.a. Captain Jack, a 2003 champion who smoked weed his entire career.
Caldwell Jones, a 1975 ABA All-Star, two-time NBA All-Defensive selection and one of four brothers to play in the NBA.
Stephon Marbury, a.k.a. Starbury, the two-time All-Star whose NBA career ended when he smoked weed live on camera. He emerged in China, where his legend is memorialized by a postage stamp, a statue and a musical starring Marbury as himself.
Clifford Robinson, a.k.a. Uncle Cliffy, the 1993 Sixth Man of the Year, 1994 All-Star and two-time All-Defensive selection turned weed entrepreneur, a.k.a. Uncle Spliffy. Something about that No. 3, man.
Dennis Scott, players only, baby.
Ben Wallace, the gloriously afro-ed four-time Defensive Player of the Year, four-time All-Star and 2004 champion.
Gerald Wallace, a 2010 All-Star and human didgeridoo.
David West, a two-time All-Star, two-time champion and longtime badass.
Chauncey Billups, a.k.a. Mr. Big Shot, a five-time All-Star and the 2004 Finals MVP, only wore No. 3 for a year in Toronto.
Tracy McGrady, a.k.a. T-Mac, a Hall of Famer, traded in his traditional No. 1 for a season to wear No. 3 in an effort to raise awareness about humanitarian efforts in Darfur.
Glenn Robinson, a.k.a. Big Dog, wore No. 3 for his farewell title campaign with the San Antonio Spurs, but was better known for wearing No. 13 en route to a pair of All-Star selections with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Bradley Beal, a two-time All-Star and newly minted $130 million man, surpassed Chris Paul as the best active player wearing a No. 3 jersey at some point over the past two seasons, when he has plied his trade for a bad Washington Wizards team and become the subject of countless trade rumors. The question is whether C.J. McCollum is also a better No. 3 than CP3 right now.
Dennis Johnson, a Hall of Famer, donned No. 3 during a seven-year run with the Boston Celtics that included four of his nine All-Defensive nods, one of his five All-Star appearances and two of his three championships. He wore No. 24 while capturing his 1979 Finals MVP award, but his No. 3 is retired in Boston, where Larry Bird once called D.J. the best teammate he ever had.
Chris Paul, a.k.a. CP3, a.k.a. The Point God, has worn No. 3 throughout a career in which he was largely the best floor general in the league, making nine All-Star appearances, nine All-Defensive teams and finishing top-seven in MVP voting seven times. The 2006 Rookie of the Year also led the league in assists on four occasions. It is a remarkable résumé that is unfortunately stamped with a failure to reach the Finals that stems from both injury and chemistry issues with his most talented teammates.
Drazen Petrovic, a.k.a. The Mozart of Basketball, a Hall of Famer and European legend, was a tragic fore-bearer of the NBA’s international transformation. He played with a swagger not unlike Stephen Curry, launching 3-pointers from well beyond the arc at a remarkable clip. A career bound for stardom came to a sudden end when a car accident claimed Petrovic’s life at age 28.
Dwyane Wade, a.k.a. D-Wade, a.k.a. Flash, one of the greatest shooting guards in the history of the game, sported No. 3 for all but his brief dalliance with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Almost every player in the league tried to swap jerseys with Wade during his farewell tour this past season, and for good reason. His accomplishments in a No. 3 jersey include 13 All-Star bids and three titles, including a 2006 Finals MVP award that briefly had him ahead of good friend LeBron James in the NBA hierarchy. He won a scoring title in 2009, when he had his best regular-season MVP finish (third), and his No. 3 will be retired in Miami soon.
The Jersey Champion
Allen Iverson, a.k.a. The Answer, a Hall of Famer and icon, wore No. 3 for all but a half-season with the Detroit Pistons. You cannot capture how impactful Iverson was by merely looking at statistics, although his four scoring titles are evidence of the 6-foot guard’s enormous talent. He inspired a generation, marrying basketball and hip-hop with a style so cool to call it cool sounds corny. The 1997 Rookie of the Year honor, 2001 MVP award and 11 All-Star appearances are just the window dressing on a career that is all too often boiled down to crossing up Michael Jordan and stepping over Tyronn Lue (although those were pretty cool, too). That step-over came in a win that spoiled Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s perfect playoff run midway through a string of three straight championships, and Iverson essentially did it by himself. This jersey came down to Iverson and Wade, and I could not in good conscience give the championship to the latter when Iverson was a reason Wade wore No. 3.
We’re not talking about practice, A.I.
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