7 NBA Stars We'd Love to See Switch Jersey Numbers
When one goes through something as traumatic as Paul George’s recent leg injury, it’s only natural he’d look somewhere—anywhere—to help turn the page as quickly as possible.
For George, the change was all in a number.
On Monday, ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported the Indiana Pacers star would switch his jersey number from 24 to 13 whenever the All-Star forward returns to the floor.
According to Rovell, the change may have had its roots, at least in part, in a suggestion made by Grantland’s Bill Simmons one year ago:
By the way, I have some advice that will help Paul George become a household name. He should change his number immediately from No. 24 to No. 13. Here's why ... can you think of anyone being helped by a nickname more than Paul George suddenly becoming PG-13? 'Uh-oh, PG-13 is heating up!'
No complaints here, obviously. That’s pretty genius. At the same time, part of us hopes George’s switch was a way for him to exorcise the awful luck that jeopardized his career by embracing the most unlikely number on the planet.
Whatever George’s underlying motivation, it got us thinking: Who are some other NBA stars that could use a uniform change?
In the end, we came up with seven players we’d like to see join George’s digit(al) revolution—either for reasons of superstition, nostalgia or bringing things full circle.
Let’s get to it!
Current number: 2
What it should be: 1
“That was just a random number I picked when I got drafted,” Kyrie Irving told SIKids.com’s Justin Tejada in a 2012 interview. “It has no significance.”
This numerical nihilism will not stand!
Prior to joining the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving wore Nos. 11 and 1 at St. Patrick’s High School and Duke University, respectively.
Why the first overall pick in the 2011 draft wouldn’t see that as sign enough to keep up with tradition, we have no earthly idea.
Enough of this No. 2 business—Irving needs to go back to what got him here in the first place. Besides, what better time for Irving to revisit his roots than now, what with LeBron James making his prodigal return and adopting anew No. 23?
Current number: 23
What it should be: 1
According to an interview with NOLA.com’s Jimmy Smith shortly before the start of the 2012-13 season, Chicagoan Anthony Davis’ decision to don No. 23 had nothing to do with a certain Chicago Bull, but rather was an homage to the game’s current peerless superstar, LeBron James.
Sooner or later, though, it’ll be on Davis to survey the NBA season and realize that, if his fate truly is as the game’s next great, he can’t be caught bowing at the feet of another.
Like Irving before him, Davis has plenty of reason to love No. 1. For Davis, though, the switch should have nothing to do with embracing his past, and everything to do with seizing the future.
All due apologies to Baron Davis, of course.
Current number: 13
What it should be: 14
For someone so seemingly beholden to superstition—his “good luck beard” being Exhibit A in the case, per NBA.com’s Jeff Caplan—James Harden sure isn’t too concerned about sporting a number building owners won’t even use to mark the floor above 12.
Don’t get us wrong, Harden’s had pretty great success sporting No. 13. All the same, if that chin hair of his ever gets a word in edgewise, we hope it’s short and sweet: “Change the digits, bro.”
To what, you ask? We’re positing 14 as a reasonable compromise—close enough to the original thing, but with an uptick to let everyone know he’s about to take his game to the next level.
To be sure, we’re going to miss the charmingly strange beard-13-lefty combo. We just want the best for James, you see. Sometimes, that means ceasing tempting the superstitious fates.
Current number: 30
What it should be: 3
There’s just something about Stephen Curry wearing No. 30 that just, I don’t know, bugs me.
Maybe it’s that you don’t often see spindly 6’3” guards sporting numbers typically reserved for forwards. Perhaps we don’t want to imagine our favorite sweet-shooting point guard—baby face and all—ever getting old.
We know it’s a family thing; Steph, his brother Seth Curry and the two’s dad, Dell Curry, all don the digit with pride. But it’s high time Stephen embrace his own basketball identity. And that means bidding adieu to that superfluous zero.
Curry has a chance to go down as the best three-point shooter in basketball history. To better appeal to the game’s deities, he needs to prove his dedication once and for all.
Current number: 42
What it should be: 41
Finally, our first case of straight-up infringing on a legend’s turf.
We’re still awaiting official word on Kevin Love’s impending trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers. When the deal does go down, though, Love might be in for a rude awakening: His beloved number has already been retired.
And while the man who wore it, NBA legend Nate Thurmond, only played two seasons in Cleveland, the Akron native’s regional clout means his old digs could be deemed untouchable.
Luckily for Love, there’s a perfect opening for a truly inspired narrative turn.
By the time next spring rolls around, it’ll have been 41 years since the Cleveland Browns captured the city’s last professional championship.
As the new guy in town, Love doesn’t want to ruffle in any feathers by raising a regalia stink—especially not with this city’s salty stock. What better way to endear yourself to the city’s suffering masses than by acknowledging you, Kevin Love, care about their plight?
Current number: 24
What it should be: 8
Even if Kobe Bryant returns to something resembling optimal health next season, how effective the 35-year-old living legend can be remains a pressing mystery for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Obviously, Bryant’s never been the kind of guy to go quietly into that good night. If and when he retires, it might very well involve getting dragged off the court in a straitjacket.
Whatever his ultimate timetable, Kobe first made his name as a basketball superstar wearing No. 8. And if he cares anything about bringing his stellar career full circle, we recommend giving the digit one final yearlong spin.
According to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding (then with the Orange County Register), Kobe has all but decided that it’ll be 24 that hangs from the Staples Center rafters.
This is wrong. He scored 81 points in a single game wearing No. 8. That’s the end of the conversation.
Current number: 23
What it should be: 6
At this point, it’s safe to say LeBron James has built back enough goodwill with the Cleveland fanbase for him to don an anarchist symbol, if that’s what he wants.
We know going back to his old 23 was merely a way of sealing his redemption’s deal. But if you’re LeBron, bringing your championship experience means wearing the number that reeled in the rings.
LeBron came back, in part, to deliver Cleveland the title it so desperately deserves. Wearing No. 23, while an admirable nod to his roots, also risks bringing up some pretty bitter memories in the minds of Cavs fans.
James might still be the little kid from Akron, Ohio. But his best acts as a basketball man deserve recognition.
Go back to No. 6, LeBron. And then try to get there.