At first glance, Chris Paul and David West don't appear to have much in common. Paul, who turns 32 this weekend, is still a star with the Clippers, while West, who's 36, is now a role player with the Warriors. Paul's team has been eliminated from this season's playoffs, while West's is still playing.
But Paul and West share an unusual uni-related distinction: They are the last two NBA players to have worn a captain's "C" on their jerseys. It happened in 2011, when they served as co-captains for the New Orleans Hornets.
Last two NBA players to have worn a captain's "C" were David West and Chris Paul, who served as New Orleans Hornets co-captains in 2011. pic.twitter.com/RMFwpQWQnk— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 1, 2017
In theory, there's nothing stopping any NBA team from naming a captain and slapping a C on his jersey. In practice, though, we've probably seen the last of this uniform element. Starting next season, NBA jerseys will carry corporate advertising patches on the upper-left chest area and the Nike logo on the upper right. Put those two developments together and there isn't much space left for a captaincy designation. (The same factors could also put anniversary patches and black memorial bands on the endangered-species list, but that's another topic for another day.)
The captain's C has always had a murky, undefined role on the basketball court. Some NBA teams have captains, some don't; some of those captains have worn a C, some haven't. The Celtics, for example, have had 15 captains during their illustrious history -- the last was Rajon Rondo in 2014 (the rest are listed at the bottom of this page) -- but none has worn the C. Maybe they worried about people mistakenly thinking it stood for "Celtics."
So which NBA players have worn the C? There's no official historical listing of NBA captains, so your friendly uniform columnist has spent some time racking his brain, scouring through photo archives, consulting with historians and putting out queries on social media.
That research has resulted in a list of 43 NBA players who've worn the C. Interestingly, though, those 43 players were spread out among only 12 franchises. In fact, 10 of them played for one team, and another 10 came from two additional teams. In other words, the phenomenon of wearing the C has largely been clustered among just a few clubs, suggesting that certain teams have more of a culture of captaincy (or at least a culture of the captain's C) than the others.
There's a decent chance that we missed a few C-clad captains, so this list may not be complete. But it presents, at the very least, a good snapshot of the C and its small but stubborn role -- a role that is now likely coming to an end -- in NBA uniform history.
Here are the 12 teams that have issued at least one C and the players who've worn the letter, from the most C-centric team to the least:
1. Milwaukee Bucks (10 players)
10 Bucks wearing the captain's C: M.Redd, A.Bogut, V.Baker, E.Johnson, D.Mason, T.Thomas, E.Strickland, B.Edwards, M.Williams, J.Smith pic.twitter.com/Zmziu3qGtG— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 2, 2017
The Bucks are the undisputed kings of the C, with 10 different captains having worn the letter -- more than any other NBA team. Several of these players were teammates who served as co-captains, padding the team's total.
2. Denver Nuggets (six players)
6 Nuggets have worn captain's C: Bryant Stith, LaPhonso Ellis, Scott Hastings Antonio McDyess, Reggie Williams, Nick Van Exel pic.twitter.com/7uwJKilwzP— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 1, 2017
The Nuggets are the runners-up when it comes to C-clad captains. You wouldn't think there was room for any more visual detail on that old rainbow uniform design, right? But the C fit in just fine.
3. Golden State Warriors (four players)
Warriors have had four players wear the captain's C (clockwise from top left): Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin, Avery Johnson pic.twitter.com/IqhOiio9aK— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 1, 2017
Golden State had its own C style, with the letter riding a bit low -- a bit too low, in this observer's opinion. Still, it's always interesting to see a team that has its own way of doing things, and this is a good reminder that every uniform element can be handled in a variety of ways -- even something as simple as a single letter.
4. Los Angeles Clippers and Buffalo Braves (four players)
Clippers/Braves franchise has had 4 captains wear the C (clockwise from top left): Danny Manning, Mark Jackson, Ron Harper, Walt Hazzard pic.twitter.com/sZUePqqdJb— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 1, 2017
Admit it, you forgot that the Clippers used to be the Braves, right? Collectively, the franchise has had four C-clad players, although three of them were co-captains during the Clippers' 1992-93 season.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (three players)
Trail Blazers have had three players wear the captain's C (clockwise from top): Jerome Kersey, Terry Porter, Damon Stoudamire pic.twitter.com/rNmUmTk9KR— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 1, 2017
Portland has had three different captains wearing the C, and the letter has appeared in three different typographic styles.
6. Seattle SuperSonics (three players)
Sonics had three players wear the captain's C (left-right): Downtown Freddie Brown, Jack Sikma, Tom Chambers pic.twitter.com/VaG743Wbur— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 1, 2017
Notice anything unusual about Freddie Brown and Jack Sikma's captaincy designations? The NBA logo hadn't yet been added to the upper-left chest when they played, so that's where they wore the C -- a rarity! By the time Tom Chambers was captain, the NBA logo had bumped the C over to the other side of the jersey.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves (three players)
Three Timberwolves players have worn the captain's C (left to right): Christian Laettner, Doug West, Chuck Person pic.twitter.com/fxiSqNebw3— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 1, 2017
Gee, you think the white C on those blue road jerseys was big enough? Then again, the Timberwolves' uniforms were so sedate back then, so at least the C livened things up a bit.
8. New Orleans Hornets (two players)
Chris Paul & David West, in addition to being last NBA players to wear captain's C, are only players ever to wear it for Hornets/Pelicans. pic.twitter.com/9WRIiB1XlR— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 1, 2017
As noted earlier, Chris Paul and David West will likely go down as the final C-clad captains in NBA history. They're also the only players to wear the C for the original Hornets franchise, which now plays as the Pelicans.
9. Atlanta Hawks (two players)
Two Hawks players have worn the captain's C: Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff pic.twitter.com/zdEn0RPx4e— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 1, 2017
Looking at these Hawks photos, it's hard not to wish the team had given a C to Dominique Wilkins, so this uniform could have been tricked out with the extra letter on the chest.
10. Indiana Pacers (two players)
The Pacers have had two players wear the captain's C: Reggie Miller and Vern Fleming. pic.twitter.com/j42y5FrWTj— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 1, 2017
The Pacers made Reggie Miller and Vern Fleming co-captains for the 1993-94 season. That's the only time anyone has worn the C in Indiana.
11. Kansas City-Omaha Kings (two players)
Sam Lacey and Nate Archibald, both shown in this photo, wore the captain's C for the Kansas City-Omaha Kings. pic.twitter.com/2V8JdJjS2i— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 1, 2017
The Kings franchise has had a long and itinerant history, with the team beginning as the Rochester Royals and then winding its way through Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Omaha before finally settling in Sacramento. The franchise's only C-clad players were Sam Lacey and Nate Archibald, both in the mid-1970s.
12. Orlando Magic (one player)
Tracy McGrady is the only Magic player to have worn the captain's C - and a pretty small one at that. pic.twitter.com/7UAQEjSOjp— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 2, 2017
Oddly enough, it appears that there's only one NBA franchise that's had only one C-clad captain. That would be the Magic, who bestowed the letter (albeit a rather small, inconspicuous one) upon Tracy McGrady during his early-2000s stint in Orlando.
And there you have it. Take a good look at those players, because the captain's C is probably finished in the NBA.
Meanwhile, is anyone missing from our list? If you have photos of additional C-clad NBA captains, you know what to do.
Would you like to nominate a uniform or uni element to be showcased in a future Friday Flashback installment? Send your suggestions here.
Paul Lukas will take a look at how the captain's C has looked on the baseball diamond in an upcoming column. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.