The human highlight film dominated the sky back in the day, wearing number 21 for the Atlanta Hawks from 1982-1994. After being traded in ’94 to the Clippers, where he put 29 points per game, Wilkins landed with the Boston Celtics in 1995. At the age of 35, Wilkins proved he could still ball while in Boston, but he did so wearing number 12. The current VP of basketball Hawks has his number 21 retired by both the Hawks and his college alma mater, the University of Georgia.
Ray Allen wore number 34 in college at UConn, during his time in both Milwaukee and Seattle and even as Jesus Shuttlesworth himself, in the movie He Got Game. But while playing for Boston, the NBA marksman had to switch his number because then teammate Paul Pierce also wore number 34. But thanks to his time in Miami, he has championships in both number 20 and 34 (which he wore again with the Heat).
When the Orlando Magic drafted Shaq from LSU, he wore number 32. But the once he hit Tinsel Town, he reinvented himself as the man in 34 (32 was Magic Johnson’s number and no one in L.A. can ever wear that again). Shaq also wore 32 in Miami, 33 with Cleveland and 36 in Boston.
Shaq’s greatest teammate, Kobe Bryant has gone through two phases of his career: No. 8 and No. 24. When he wore 8, he played the Robin role to Shaq, winning three championships. However, after his situation in Colorado, he rebranded himself as the Black Mamba. To change everyone’s perception, he changed his number. Everything with 8 was over. Kobe’s won his sole MVP in no. 24, two titles and scored 81 wearing his current number.
When Jay-z dropped the line “will I come back like Jordan/wearing the four-five?” on his track Encore, he alluded to possibly coming out retirement the way MJ did. As a new person, a player under his own (new) rules and with a personal, yet greater good benefiting agenda. Just like James, Jordan couldn’t resists returning to the monster in 23 fans loved and players feared.
Fun Fact: Jordan also wore number 12 once in a game because someone stole his jersey. Facts only.
Way back in the day, Charles Barkley rocked number 34 for the Philadelphia 76ers, but switched to 32 to honor Magic Johnson when he revealed he’d have to retire. Most readers will probably remember Barkley wearing 34 in his phoenix days, but he also wore number 4 when he played for the Houston Rockets.
The two-time NBA MVP, Steve Nash wore number 13 in his two stints with the Suns and while teamed with Dirk Nowitzki for the Dallas Mavericks. A product of the famed NBA Draft class of 1996 (along with Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant), Nash played back up point guard to Jason Kidd with the Suns before making his name with the Mavericks. However, the number change (to No.10) came when he signed with the Lakers.
Kevin Garnet made the number 21 look menacing throughout the late 90’s and, especially, the early 2000’s. KG turned the then young franchise of the Minnesota Timberwolves into title contenders over time while wearing the number, making the NBA All Star game 10 times while wearing it. However, Garnett's move to Boston, where he wore number 5, is where “The Kid” became the man with an NBA ring.
The number 3 will forever be synonymous with the one and only Allen Iverson in the NBA. So many iconic images of A.I. exist with wearing No.3 like a badge of honor. Even his most sought after sneakers, the Reebok Questions have a “3” referencing the man who lead the league in scoring four times. But the Hampton, VA native did wear number 1 briefly, when he played for the Detroit Pistons in 2009.
Along with Iverson and Kobe Bryant, T-Mac was a face of the NBA for a generation. Current stars had his pictures on their walls as kids, and tried to reenact his 13 points in 33 seconds in their driveway. McGrady’s No.1 jersey was one of the more popular sellers in the NBA but he also wore No. 3 while playing with the Knicks in 2010.