NBA Athlete Number 23 - Michael Jordan

Are there any doubts about the best athlete, NBA or otherwise, to ever wear number 23?

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NBA Athlete Number 22 - Elgin Baylor

Tough call here between Clyde Drexler and Elgin Baylor.  Baylor, having played with the Lakers for his entire NBA career, gets the nod here though.

Elgin Baylor, taken with the number 1 overall pick in the 1958 NBA draft by the Minneapolis Lakers, was a scoring and rebounding force in both Minneapolis and L.A.  In his rookie season, Baylor put up a hefty 1,742 points in merely 70 games.  He also reached the quadruple-digit rebound plateau in that first season, pulling down 1,050 boards.

Baylor would continue to steadily improve offensively. His sophomore campaign with the Lakers saw him score 2,074 points and rip down 1,150 boards.  Season 3 would be even more impressive.  That season, in which he played in just 3 more games than he had in each of his previous 2 seasons, Baylor scored a monstrous 2,538 points while accumulating 1,447 rebounds.

His fourth season was quite a remarkable one.  Baylor, an Army reservist, was called to duty and stationed in Washington state during the 1961-62 season.  He was able to play with the Lakers only with a weekend pass, limiting him to 48 regular season games.  That didn't limit him while on

the court however.  In just those 48 games, Baylor 1,836 points.  That's 38.5 points per game!

Baylor would also score a record 61 points against the Celtics in game 5 of the NBA finals in that fourth season.

All told, Baylor accomplished the following:

  • - 23,149 points
  • - 11,463 rebounds
  • - .431 field-goal percentage
  • - 1958-59 Rookie of the Year
  • - 27.4 points per game

Did you know........Baylor scored 70 points against the Knicks in 1970?


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NBA Athlete Number 21 - Tim Duncan

21 is an extremely popular NBA number, worn by many great athletes.   Dominique Wilkins and Kevin Garnett are just two of those greats.  The greatest of them all, in my opinion, is Tim Duncan.

Duncan, taken with the number 1 overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft by the San  Antonio Spurs out of Wake Forest, has been an NBA superstar from the time he stepped onto the court to play with the Spurs.  In his rookie season with the Spurs, he scored an incredible 1,731 points with 977 rebounds.

Tim's most prolific season to-date was 2001-02 when he tallied 2,089 points along with a league-leading 1,042 rebounds, 764 field goals and 560 free-throws!
Tim Duncan Black Adidas Revolution 30 NBA Replica San Antonio Spurs Youth Jersey
Through 13 NBA seasons, Duncan has achieved the following:

  • 21,633 points
  • 12,013 rebounds
  • .508 field-goal percentage
  • 1997-98 ROY
  • 4 NBA Championships
  • 3-time NBA Finals MVP
  • 2-time NBA MVP
Did you know..............that Duncan was also twice the ACC Player of the Year in college?

NFL Number 21
MLB Number 21
NHL Number 21


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NBA Athlete Number 20 - Gary Payton

20 is a surprisingly popular NBA jersey number, worn by many.  After reviewing the candidates, it's clear to me that Gary Payton is the best NBA athlete to ever wear number 20.

"The Glove" as he was known, was taken with the number 2 overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft by the Seattle SuperSonics out of Oregon State. While Payton could certainly shoot the rock, he made his fame by setting his teammates up and taking the ball from his opponents. It seems that his nickname refers to his tight defensive coverage and limitation of his opponents' ability to score while he was guarding them.

In fact, as of this writing, Payton ranks 4th all-time in NBA steals (2,445). He led the NBA in thefts for the 1995-96 season with 231.

  • 8,966 assists (8th all-time)
  • 21,813 points (31st all-time)
  • 1.8 steals per game (23rd all-time)
  • 1995-96 NBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • 1,132 three-pointers
Did you know..........that Payton won an NBA Championship with the Miami Heat in 2006?


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NBA Athlete Number 19 - Willis Reed

Willis Reed, considered widely as one of the 50 best NBA athletes of all-time, is the best to wear number 19. He wore it for the New York Knicks, spending his entire NBA career with them.

Reed was drafted by the Knickerbockers in 1964 and would see significant court time with them immediately.  He played in 80 games in his first season in Madison Square Garden.  In that rookie season of 1964-65, Reed   shot .432 with 1,560 points and 1,175 rebounds.  That was more than good enough to earn Mr. Reed the NBA Rookie of the Year Award for the 1964-65 season.

Reed, who was a seven time All-Star in his relatively brief ten year career, would win NBA championships with the Knicks in 1970 and 1973.  For the 1970 campaign, Reed was both the NBA regular season MVP and the NBA Finals MVP.

  • 1982 Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee
  • 12,183 points 
  • 8,414 rebounds
  • 12.9 rebounds per game (12th all-time)
  • 1,358 playoff points
  • 17.4 points per playoff game
Did you know.............that the Knicks have retired jersey number 19 in Reed's honor?

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NBA Athlete Number 18 - Dave Cowens

Another great Celtic.  Dave Cowens was at one point my pick for the best pro athlete to ever wear the number 18, until Peyton Manning took over that mantle.  Well, Cowens was a great athlete nonetheless.  

Cowens took to the court in Boston for 10 years, spanning the 1970-71 through 1979-80 NBA seasons.  He would wind up his career with one season in Milwaukee for 11 total NBA seasons.  During that tenure, he accomplished the following:

  • 10,444 rebounds (34th all-time)
  • 13.6 rebounds per game (9th all-time)
  • 2 NBA Championships
  • NBA Rookie of the Year
  • 13,516 career points
Did you know...................Cowens played his college ball at Florida State?

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NBA Athlete Number 17 - John Havlicek

"Hondo", John Havlicek, wore number 17 for his entire NBA career spent with that Irish monikered team from Boston, the Celtics.  You of course remember the famous (or if you're a Knicks or Lakers fan, infamous) call and moment in NBA history, with "Havlicek Steals The Ball!" I didn't realize just how good this guy was for Boston.  He's named, appropriately, the 17th best NBA player all-time by SLAM magazine.  Here are some of his accolades:
  • 10,513 field goals (10th all-time)
  • 8 NBA Championships
  • 20.8 points per game
  • 26,395 points (15th all-time)
  • 6,114 assists
  • 1984 Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee
Did you know........that Havlicek was the 1973-74 NBA finals MVP?  


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NBA Athlete Number 16 - Bob Lanier

Bob Lanier, known by non-sports fans worldwide for his size 22 shoe, was a premier NBA center taken with the number 1 overall pick in the 1970 NBA draft out of St. Bonaventure by the Detroit Pistons.

In his nine full seasons with the pre-bad boy Pistons, Lanier would never score less than 1,253 points in a season.  He shot a career .514 from the field, with 19,248 points and 9,698 rebounds.  He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Did you know..............Bob Lanier has co-authored a children's book series?


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NBA Athlete Number 15 - Hal Greer

Hal Greer was taken with the sixth pick of the second round in the 1958 NBA draft (there weren't that many teams back then for the 13th pick to happen in the second round), by the Syracuse Nationals. Greer would steadily ascend the list of top point scorers over his 15-year career spent with the Nationals and Philadelphia.

Greer began his prolific career during the 1958-59 NBA season, playing in 68 games for the Nationals, shooting .454. He would score 753 points in that rookie year, followed by 924 in his sophomore campaign. Then, through the 1970-71 season, Greer would top 1,400 points in each NBA season.

His high-water mark offensively came in 1967-68, when he shot .478 from the field for 1,976 regular season points.

Greer was no slouch on the boards either racking up 5,665 for his career. He also knew how to set his teammates up for baskets, garnering 4,540 assists over his NBA career.

Greer's 21,586 points ranks him 34th on the all-time list as of this post. He would be an NBA champion with the Sixers in 1967 and Philadelphia would wind up retiring his jersey number 15.

Did you know..............that Greer used to take jump shots from the free throw line?

sources: and

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NBA Athlete Number 14 - Bob Cousy

Taken with the 3rd pick overall in the 1950 NBA draft by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks out of Holy Cross, Cousy would be acquired by the Boston Celtics from the Chicago Stags (who bought the rights to Cousy from the Blackhawks) in 1950.

Cousy would play in 69 NBA games as a rookie during the 1950-51 NBA season. He put up an impressive 1,078 points in that initial year as a pro. He also dished the ball to his teammates 341 times for them to score.

The following season he would increase both his assist and point totals en route to leading the NBA in assists during his third season with 547. Cousy would dominate the NBA in the assists category for eight straight years (1952-53 to 1959-60).

Cousy played on six Boston Celtic NBA Championship teams, and was named the NBA MVP for the 1956-57 season.  For his career he assisted on 6,955 baskets (15th all-time).

Did you know.......................Cousy's jersey number 14 has been retired by the Celtics?


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