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NBA AM: Same Team, New Number

Doug McDermott will join Kobe Bryant as players who changed numbers, but not teams. Here’s the rest of them.

Joel Brigham



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Chicago Bulls forward Doug McDermott is going to change numbers next season, even though he’s not changing teams. Thanks to Dwyane Wade’s arrival, McDermott is giving up his #3 to a guy he knows will be a Hall-of-Famer, but that leaves him with the conundrum of choosing new digits. According to the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, McDermott is considering #11, #17, #24 and #34, any of which will look almost as odd as Wade wearing any number in a uniform other than Miami’s.

McDermott isn’t alone in having had to change uniform numbers without changing teams. Plenty of players have done the same for a number of reasons over the years. Here’s a look at a good chunk of them:

Al Jefferson, Boston Celtics, #8, #7 and Antoine Walker, Boston Celtics, #8, #88 – After being traded back to the Celtics in 2005, Walker couldn’t wear #8 again because rookie Al Jefferson had it. Eventually, though, Jefferson surrendered the number back to the vet and dropped a digit to #7 instead.

B.J. Armstrong, Chicago Bulls, #10, #11 – Armstrong got a second stint with Chicago in 1999-2000, but by then the team had retired Bob Love’s #10, so Armstrong tacked on a digit to stay as close to #10 as possible.

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, #23, #45, #12 – Jordan had to wear #12 in a game on Valentine’s Day in 1990 because someone stole his #23 game jersey, and he obviously wore #45, his baseball number, when he came back to the Bulls in 1994.

Brad Miller, Chicago Bulls, #40, #52 – The only time in his career Miller didn’t wear #52 was his first stint in Chicago. He remedied that his second go-round.

Jannero Pargo, Chicago Bulls, #15, #2 – John Salmons kept Pargo from reclaiming his #15 from his first time with the Bulls, so he happily took up #2, a number he also had worn several times in his career.

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons, #1, #0 – When Chauncey Billups made one last gasp in Detroit a couple of seasons ago, Drummond happily gave up the number he wore his rookie year so Billups could have the uniform he made famous in the Motor City.

Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons, #3, #6 – The city of Detroit got all the warm fuzzies in the world when Wallace was given the opportunity to finish his career in Detroit after spending a few years in his twilight with other teams. By the time of his return, though, Rodney Stuckey had taken ownership of #3 and really wasn’t all that interested in giving it back. So, Wallace doubled his old number and settled for #6.

Rasheed Wallace, Detroit Pistons, #30, #36 – Wallace changed his number to 36 in 2004 to honor his brother, who passed away at the age of 36. He would eventually change back to #30.

Kenyon Martin, Denver Nuggets, #6, #4 – Martin had worn #6 for his entire career before switching over to his college number in 2007.

J.R. Smith, Denver Nuggets, #1, #5 and Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets, #7, #1 – These go together since Smith changed from #1 to give the number to Billups following his trade from Detroit in 2008.

Tracy McGrady, Houston Rockets, #1, #3 – Back in 2009, McGrady was doing a lot of work in Darfur, not only for his charity but also for a documentary he was producing entitled, “3 Points.” The number change helped raise awareness for those projects.

Ron Artest, Indiana Pacers, #15, #23, #91 – Artest always has made interesting uniform number choices, but his first diversion away from #15 was a tribute to Michael Jordan. His switch to #91, then, was another tribute, this time to Jordan’s championship teammate, bad boy Dennis Rodman.

Paul George, Indiana Pacers, #24, #13 – Bill Simmons once suggested that George should change his number so that he could assume the “PG-13” nickname, and when George got wind of it he liked the sound of it enough to actually go through with the number change.

Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers, #8, #24 – Bryant wanted to wear #24 as a rookie but it wasn’t available, so he switched over in 2006 to the number he’d desired all along.

Jordan Farmar, L.A. Lakers, #5, #1 – Farmar wore #1 both at UCLA and in high school, so the minute it became available he pounced all over it.

Nate Robinson, New York Knicks, #4, #2 – There were “two” reasons for Robinson to switch to #2, the first of which being that Robinson’s first uniform number ever was #2, and the second being that it was the number his favorite athlete, Deion Sanders, who wore it at Florida State.

Charles Barkley, Philadelphia 76ers, #34, #32 – Barkley changed his number in 1991 to honor his friend Magic Johnson, who had recently been diagnosed with HIV. He did change back to #34 the following season.

Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers, #4, #9 – When Chris Webber came to Philadelphia, the rookie gave up his #4 for Webber to wear, but now it’s hard to imagine Iguodala wearing anything but #9.

Amar’e Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns, #32, #1 – In coming back from microfracture surgery in 2006, Stoudemire felt he was the only “one” to believe he could be as effective as before, which is why he switched to the loneliest number.

Martell Webster, Portland Trail Blazers, #8, #23 – When Webster first joined the Blazers, Darius Miles wore the #23 that Webster really wanted, so he had to wait for Miles’ departure to wear the number Martell wore in high school.

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings, #16, #23 – McLemore chose #16 as a rookie without really realizing that it had been Peja Stojakovic’s number when he was playing in Sacramento. With #23 coming available thanks to the departure of Marcus Thornton, McLemore switched to his preferred digit for his sophomore year while paying his belated respects to Stojakovic in the process.

Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs, #4, #14 – Having worn #14 in high school and college, that was the number he preferred all along, which explains his switch from #4 a couple of seasons ago.

Chris Webber, Washington Bullets, #2, #4 – Scott Skiles wore Chris Webber’s #4 when he was first traded to the Bullets, so he had to wait until Skiles retired to take ownership of the number he wore for the majority of his basketball career.

Brendan Haywood, Washington Wizards, #3, #00, #33 – Haywood at one point apparently didn’t care what number he wore, as he started with #3 as a rookie but gave it up and switched to #00 when Juan Dixon joined the team the following year. Then he gave that number up when Gilbert Arenas came aboard and wanted to wear #0. He finally had enough the next season when Antawn Jamison, who had previously worn Haywood’s #33, found his way to Washington. Haywood declined the option to switch numbers a third time following that acquisition.

Andray Blatche, Washington Wizards, #32, #7 – Ahead of the 2009 season, Blatche wanted to come into camp with a whole new attitude about his career, which is why he chose #7 to represent, as he put it, “Seven days a week of hard work, seven days of being focused.”

Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards, #0, #9 – Arenas changed to #9 in 2010, but to this day nobody knows why. Arenas always did take pride in being an enigma.

Reader Contributions:

Dion Waiters, Oklahoma City Thunder, #23, #3 (@Thunder_Digest)
Perry Jones, Oklahoma City Thunder, #8, #3 (@Thunder_Digest)
Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City Thunder, #2, #25 (@JonMHamm)
DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers, #9, #6 (@JonMHamm)
Tony Wroten, Philadelphia 76ers, #8, #1 (@TaylorOfTerror)
Bruno Caboclo, Toronto Raptors, #20, #5 (@416Basketball)
Stanley Johnson, Detroit Pistons, #3, #7 (@dropdeadken_)
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets, #1, #15 (@RichieRandall)
Mario Chalmers, Miami HEAT, #6, #15 (@FrankyG_)
Mengke Bateer, Toronto Raptors #42, #14 (@MarkDeeksNBA)
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers, #6, #1 (@EllisD69)
Joe Young, Indiana Pacers, #1, #3 (@EllisD69)
Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland Cavaliers, #9, #8 (@ChefKyrie)
Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors, #36, #5 (@MattRGagnon)


Number changes can be a fascinating thing, if only for the reasons behind the switches, and this year Doug McDermott joins the ranks.

This can’t be the comprehensive list, but it sure would be nice to make it that way. If you see any I missed, please hit me up on Twitter @joelbrigham, and we’ll try to make this list whole!


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