What’s in a number? A lot when it comes to the NBA. The numbers that players select for their jerseys are often teeming with sentimentality and legacy. Some honor Bible verses, children’s birthdates, death dates of loved ones, and numbers worn by NBA mentors.
Consider up-and-coming Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, for example. His No. 45 has been with him since his college days and was chosen based on his on-court hero Michael Jordan. If you’re still puzzling over the No. 45, you may be unable to expunge the image of Jordan’s No. 23 Bulls jersey from your brain. But Jordan did indeed wear No. 45 back in high school and then again for 22 games during his 1994-95 season before returning to his signature 23.
New to the Jazz, Jae Crowder sports a No. 99. The forward from Georgia and son of former NBA player Corey Crowder played for Marquette University wearing No. 32 as a nod to Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers. He switched to No. 9 after joining the NBA. He played for Dallas at first, but he was traded to the Boston Celtics during the 2014-2015 season as part of the same transaction that sent Rajon Rondo from the Celtics to the Mavericks. Rondo wore a No. 9, so Crowder decided to change his number to 99 in honor of his best friend from Georgia who wore the number when he played football at Faulkner University.
Rudy Gobert, the 7’1” center from France, chose number 27 because that was his draft number. Royce O’Neale kept his No. 23 from his college days. Alec Burks played as No. 11 in college, then slid down to 10 when he entered the elite ranks of the NBA.
Not all jersey numbers are free for the taking, however. Some numbers have been retired in honor of Jazz greats to include:
- Frank Layden, No. 1 (General Manager and Head Coach)
- Adrian Dantley, No. 4
- Pete Maravich, No. 7
- Larry H. Miller, No. 9 (Owner)
- John Stockton, No. 12
- Jeff Hornacek, No. 14
- Karl Malone, No. 32
- Darrel Griffith, No. 35
- Mark Eaton, No. 53
- Jerry Sloan, No.1223 (Head Coach)
Pick your NBA player—there’s almost always a story behind the number, and Jazz players are no exception.