Who are the best NBA players ever to wear each jersey number?
Apparel company Mitchell & Ness took this question and figuratively ran with it, creating a graphic that lists the best player to wear every number that's ever graced the front and back of an NBA uniform.
• There are a few incontrovertible choices: No. 23 for Michael Jordan (unless you're Kendrick Perkins or Bill Laimbeer), No. 45 for MJ (even if he wore it for just a few weeks in 1995), No. 00 for Robert Parish, No. 1 for Oscar Robertson, and a few others.
• There are heated debates for other numbers, particularly the overloaded No. 33, where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar edged Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Scottie Pippen and others. (This writer's opinion: Kareem was the absolute right choice).
• Late-career changes helped squeeze excellent players onto the list in numbers they're not always best known for. Karl Malone (No. 32 with the Utah Jazz) gets on for his one year as No. 11 with the Los Angeles Lakers, since he was never going to overtake Magic Johnson. Shaquille O'Neal wore 32 (Magic), 33 (Kareem) and 34 (Hakeem Olajuwon) at points in his career, but gets on the list with his Boston Celtics No. 36. And Kevin Garnett, who probably wouldn't have edged Tim Duncan out for No. 21, thankfully had the No. 5 spot all to himself for his post-Minnesota Timberwolves stint with the Celtics.
• The end of this list is absolutely wonderful, with Scot Pollard, Jason Kapono, Shawn Bradley, Vladimir Radmanovic and DeShawn Stevenson bringing back so many memories. But it also contains some great significance: Jason Collins, the NBA's first openly gay player, wore No. 98 as a tribute to Matthew Shepard.
• The Panda's Friend? More like The Oddball Jersey Number's Friend! Yes, Ron Artest, aka Metta World Peace, shows up a list-topping four times here, for Nos. 37, 51, 93 and 96, edging out equally eccentric talent Dennis Rodman (three: 70, 73, 91).
• Biggest omission from the list? LeBron James. Sure, he's not going to overtake Jordan (see above) for No. 23. But No. 6? That spot was given to Bill Russell, who wore his signature number for the Celtics while winning 11 championships. But some -- maybe even this writer (bring out the haters!) -- believe James, who wore No. 6 during his four-year stint with the Miami Heat, is/was the better player.