Do NBA Players Get to Pick Their Numbers? The Truth

NBA players don’t pick their numbers at random. Some players in the league choose their numbers carefully, especially since they’ll be wearing those tank tops for many games.

NBA players can pick their numbers. However, league athletes need to go through a rigorous process to select the right number. They have to follow rules, such as not picking numbers with adverse connotations. Additionally, players can’t select numbers that other athletes already own. In other words, one team cannot have two players sporting the same number.

What are the guidelines in selecting numbers in the NBA? Also, how do NBA players select their jersey numbers? Take a deeper dive into the main topic by reading the rest of the article. In turn, you’ll gain insights into these questions.

What are the Rules in Selecting Numbers in the NBA?

NBA players pick numbers

NBA players don’t close their eyes and point their fingers at a number to select their jerseys. Although the athletes can choose from a broad array of available numbers, they still have to follow specific rules.

No Offensive Connotations

number offensive connotations

Mention the number 69, and you’ll hear either (1) giggles or (2) gasps in disgust. Therefore, no player has the number 69 on his jersey in the NBA. However, it doesn’t mean that a player didn’t attempt to wear this number on his jersey.

That player in question is Dennis Rodman. 2000 was the time when Rodman transferred to the Dallas Mavericks. It was also the time when Rodman requested to have his jersey sport the number 69. However, the league didn’t allow the request, seeing that it can have offensive connotations to some communities.

Up to Two Digits Allowed

nba jersey two numbers

Aside from numbers with offensive meanings, the NBA only allows a maximum of two digits on each player’s jersey. In other words, numbers like 000, 100, or 5,821 can’t be seen in the NBA or any basketball league. Players can still choose any number from 00 to 99, except for 69.

Number Changes

number changes

Any NBA player has the right to change their numbers if they desire. However, the athletes can exercise this right only during the off-season. Moreover, many NBA players pick and stick with their numbers until they retire. It’s because several league players select their numbers as these figures have deep meanings for them.

However, the NBA granted appeals for several players to change their numbers from 8 to 24. This event happened when Kobe Bryant passed away tragically passed away with his daughter when their helicopter crashed in January 2020. The players changed their numbers to honor the fallen NBA celebrity.

Retired Players

retiring players

As players retire, so do their numbers. However, these numbers will stay in the hearts and minds of many basketball fans. For example, if you think about NBA’s number 23, an image of Michael Jordan will enter your mind. Also, thinking of the number 33 will make you think about Larry Bird.

Since these numbers are no longer taken, active players can choose to wear these numbers on their jerseys. However, these athletes need to have a massive ego and the right skill level if they want to flaunt these legendary numbers on the court.

How NBA Players Select Their Jersey Numbers?

As mentioned previously, some NBA players select their numbers because of the deep meaning behind those figures. Here are some of those athletes and their stories.

Gilbert Arenas – Number 0

gilbert arenas

Gilbert Jay Arenas, Jr., aka ‘Agent Zero,’ was the point guard for different teams during his NBA career. He played for and with the Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, and Washington Wizards, with which he stayed for eight seasons.

While he was with the Wizards, Arenas can be seen from afar while flaunting the Number 0 jersey. However, it wasn’t a coincidence that Arenas selected this number. According to an interview with the NBA, the player said:

“Zero is the number of minutes people predicted I would play my freshman year at Arizona. I decided to go with it because I love proving people wrong.”

In context, Arenas averaged 32.1 minutes playing during his freshman year at Arizona.

Russell Westbrook – Number 0

Russell Westbrook

Like Arenas, Russell Westbrook, the point guard for the Houston Rockets (1 season), Washington Wizards (1 season), and Oklahoma City Thunder (11 seasons), wore the number 0 on his jersey. The reason for him choosing this number is because it signifies a new beginning.

According to Westbrook, the number 0 ‘helps you get the swag back.’ It’s a number that allows him to know progress can happen despite challenges and mistakes.

Dwyane Wayde – Number 3

Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Tyrone Wade, Jr., the shooting guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers (1 season), Chicago Bulls (1 season), and Miami Heat (15 seasons), chose the number 3 for his jersey. Wade, being a deep-rooted Christian, selected this number as it signifies the Holy Trinity.

Dwight Howard – Number 12

Dwight Howard

The number 12 has a special meaning to Dwight Howard, the center and power forward for several teams, such as the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Orlando Magic. This particular number was worn by Kevin Garnett, who help the small forward, power forward, and center positions for different teams.

Howard is a fan of Garnett. But Garnett was able to test that admiration on the court when the two NBA players had the chance to compete in an official match. In the game, Howard was touching Garnett’s side. Garnett didn’t take the gesture lightly and proceeded to punch Howard’s hand twice. The referee saw this move and gave Garnett a violation.

Here’s the clip of the foul:

Ron Artest – Number 37

Ron Artest

While other NBA players honor league legends by wearing their numbers on jerseys, Ron Artest had a different motive for choosing the number 37. Now known as Metta World Peace, Ronald William Artest is a massive fan of popstar icon Michael Jackson. Wearing the number 37 allowed Artest or Peace to honor the late music celebrity with his song Thriller because the track spent 37 weeks at the top of the charts.

Final Words

NBA players can pick their numbers, but they need to follow certain rules before they can wear their chosen numbers on their jerseys. For instance, the league prohibits choosing any number that can induce offensive connotations. Further, the NBA only allows two-digit numbers on jerseys, which means the association forbids the use of any number higher than 99. For more information about anything basketball, check out Make-Shots.

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