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 13 days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 13 best?
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Frankie Brian, a 1949 National Basketball League champion and one of so many stars of the 1940s whose college career was interrupted by World War II service, sported No. 13 for the Tri-Cities Blackhawks in the NBA’s first-ever All-Star Game.
Doug Christie, a four-time All-Defensive selection who basically conducted sign language conversations with his wife during games, donned No. 13 in 13 of his 15 NBA seasons, including his five-year run with my beloved early 2000s Sacramento Kings.
Kendall Gill, who shares an NBA record with 11 steals in a single game, wore No. 13 for five teams in his 15-year career.
Tony Jaros, a two-time champion and proprietor of Tony Jaros’ River Garden bar, home of the Greenie.
Stew Johnson, a three-time ABA All-Star and one-time holder of the league’s single-game scoring record.
Julius Keye, a 1971 ABA All-Star and the league’s single-game blocks record-holder.
Šarūnas Marčiulionis, a Hall of Famer, Euro-stepping pioneer and Lithuanian legend, wore No. 13 for five of his seven seasons.
Fab Melo, R.I.P.
Mike Miller, the 2001 Rookie of the Year and 2006 Sixth Man of the Year, adopted No. 13 with the Miami Heat later in his career, winning a pair of championships alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Marcus Morris, about that life.
Joakim Noah, the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time All-Star and three-time All-Defensive selection, screamed up and down the court while shooting jumpers that looked like they never had a chance in a No. 13 jersey for his first 11 seasons.
Mehmet Okur, a.k.a. The Money Man, a 2007 All-Star, 2004 NBA champion and stretch center before his time.
Bobby Phills, whose number was retired by the Charlotte Hornets following his death in a car crash during his ninth season.
Glenn Robinson, a.k.a. Big Dog, a two-time All-Star whose career was cut short by injury.
James Silas, a two-time ABA All-Star apparently nicknamed both Captain Late and The Late Mr. Silas for his clutch play. Those are two nicknames that need to be resurrected. His No. 13 is retired by the San Antonio Spurs.
Monte Towe, a 1976 All-Star credited with creating the alley-oop with N.C. State teammate David Thompson.
Dave Twardzik, a 1975 All-Star and 1977 NBA champion whose No. 13 is retired by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Slick Watts, nicknamed Slick for his early adoption of the shaved-head look, led the NBA in assists and steals in 1976.
Delonte West, I hope you’re OK.
Donnie Freeman, who spurned the Philadelphia 76ers in 1966 to enter the ABA instead, becoming a five-time ABA All-Star and 1973 ABA champion, only turned to No. 13 for a pair of post-prime seasons with the Indiana Pacers. The Sixers won the 1967 NBA championship without him, but maybe he would have helped Wilt Chamberlain break through for another title or two.
Gus Johnson, a.k.a. Honeycomb, a Hall of Famer with a gold star in his front tooth, sported No. 13 for a half a season with the Phoenix Suns, just after his run of four straight All-Star appearances in a No. 25 Baltimore Bullets jersey.
Moses Malone, the Hall of Fame legend and man of many numbers, donned No. 13 for a season with the ABA’s Spirits of St. Louis before making the leap to the NBA, where he won three MVPs in two different numbers, neither of which was No. 13.
James Harden, who is climbing up the list of all-time greatest shooting guards with every ridiculously productive season, is pretty easily the best active No. 13 going — and might already be the greatest to ever wear a number had he not picked this one. It takes a lot to ensure Paul George is not the best active player in a number that fits nicely into his PG13 nickname, but we do not talk enough about how incredible it is that Harden has been top two in MVP voting in four of the past five seasons.
Steve Nash, a Hall of Famer who kind of incredibly has more MVP awards than Harden, sported No. 13 for all but the last two of his 18 seasons, making eight All-Star appearances, leading the league in assists five times and earning his back-to-back MVPs. He is the most prolific of the NBA’s 50-40-90 club, enjoying four such seasons. Larry Bird is the only other player to do it twice.
The Jersey Champion
Wilt Chamberlain, a Hall of Famer whose statistics make it seem like he was on a cheat code for his 14-year career, donned No. 13 through it all. A unicorn on and off the floor before the term was coined in basketball, Chamberlain was a track star who happened to be 7-foot-1, averaging as many as 50.4 points, 27.2 rebounds and 8.6 assists in single seasons, leading the league in those respective categories on seven occasions, 11 times and once. He was the 1960 Rookie of the Year, a four-time regular-season MVP and the 1972 Finals MVP, winning two titles. He might have more rings were Bill Russell not his ultimate foil. Chamberlain was so good that his No. 13 is retired by the Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers.
Praise be to The Big Dipper.
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