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We are inside of one month until the start of the 2019-20 NBA season, when the league’s many new superstar pairings will finally be unveiled. What better way to pass the time than to count down the final 55 days by arguing over who wore each jersey number best until we reach No. 00.
There are currently nine days until the season opener on Oct. 22. So, who wore No. 9 best?
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Tony Allen, a 2008 champion with the Boston Celtics and the best defender Kobe Bryant ever faced, sported No. 9 en route to three First Team All-Defense selections as a backbone of the Grit ‘n’ Grind Memphis Grizzlies, who plan to retire his jersey.
Fred Christ, a shooting guard for the New York Knicks in 1954, not the lesser-known brother of Jesus.
Luol Deng, a two-time All-Star with the Chicago Bulls who Tom Thibodeau ran into the ground.
Ron Harper, a five-time champion and my man Kelly Dwyer’s favorite player.
Mel Hutchins, a four-time All-Star, brother of a Miss America and uncle to two-time All-Star Kiki Vandeweghe.
Rashard Lewis, the first-ever BIG3 MVP, donned No. 9 for one of his two NBA All-Star campaigns and on the 2013 title run.
Dan Majerle, a.k.a. Thunder Dan, a three-time All-Star and two-time All-Defensive selection, played each of his 14 seasons in a No. 9 jersey and all but one in a city befitting his tan, splitting time between Phoenix and Miami. The Suns retired his No. 9.
Randy Smith, an three-sport All-American, donned No. 9 for all but the last 15 games of a 12-year career, including both his All-Star appearances with the Buffalo Braves, setting an ironman streak of 906 straight games that was later broken by A.C. Green.
Nick Van Exel, a 1998 All-Star who wore No. 9 with the Los Angeles Lakers before they became convinced he quit on them in the Western Conference finals, always looked incredibly cool playing basketball, especially when the clock was winding down.
Gilbert Arenas, a.k.a. Agent Zero, a three-time All-Star and the 2003 Most Improved Player, switched from No. 0 to 9 as a rebirth from his suspension for brandishing an unregistered gun in the Washington Wizards locker room, but that rebirth lasted only 21 games before they traded his massive contract to the Orlando Magic for another overpriced No. 9 — Rashard Lewis.
Mel Daniels, the 1968 ABA Rookie of the Year, a two-time ABA MVP, three-time ABA champion and seven-time ABA All-Star, only wore No. 9 for a single season with the Memphis Sounds. The Hall of Famer’s No. 34 was retired by the Indiana Pacers.
Dwyane Wade, a future Hall of Famer and another incredibly smooth player, wore No. 9 for a regrettable 46-game stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, before seeking a return to the Miami Heat, who should announce the retirement of his No. 3 any day now.
Rajon Rondo, the four-time All-Star, 2008 NBA champion and Connect 4 legend, is the active No. 9 jersey champion, if only because Tony Parker just retired, Andre Iguodala is in limbo and the number is more synonymous with Rondo than 2019 All-Star Nikola Vucevic, 2019 champion Serge Ibaka or a number of players below them on the talent scale. Do not let anyone ever tell you Rondo was overrated, because they clearly do not remember how good he was before tearing his ACL. He was the best setup man in the league for multiple seasons and capable of putting up 44 points in an Eastern Conference finals game opposite LeBron James in his prime. Playoff Rondo is a real thing, and here is hoping we get to see him one more time alongside James.
Richie Guerin, a Hall of Famer beloved by all who delayed the start of his NBA career by two years in service of the U.S. Marines, sported No. 9 for his seven-plus seasons with the New York Knicks, six of which were All-Star campaigns.
Tony Parker, a.k.a. the Parisian Torpedo, the six-time All-Star and four-time champion, sported No. 9 for all 18 of his NBA seasons prior to retiring this summer. He spent 17 of them on the San Antonio Spurs, capturing 2007 Finals MVP honors over a prime Tim Duncan. I legitimately forgot he nearly lost his eye in a 2012 nightclub brawl between Chris Brown and Drake’s entourage. The Frenchman finished sixth in MVP voting the following season, his fourth top-10 finish in that regard.
Bobby Wanzer, a.k.a. Hooks, who participated in the mission to end the occupation of Guam during World War II as a U.S. Marine, wore both Nos. 09 and 9 during a nine-year career with the Rochester Royals that featured five straight All-Star bids and the 1951 NBA championship. Long considered one of Bob Cousy’s chief rivals, Wanzer was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The Jersey Champion
Bob Pettit, a Hall of Famer, sported No. 9 for the entirety of his 11-year career with the Hawks of Milwaukee and St. Louis. An All-Star each year, he won the game’s MVP award a record four times. His résumé features the 1955 Rookie of the Year honor, two regular-season MVPs and a pair of scoring titles. His 1958 title run, culminating with 50 points in a clinching Game 6, is the reason the Celtics did not win 10 rings in a row. If not for Bill Russell, who won three of their four Finals meetings (including a pair of Game 7s), Pettit’s legend might be even greater. He is still an all-timer whose No. 9 remains retired by the Hawks.
Salute the Bombardier from Baton Rouge.
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