With the popularity of Michael Jordan, you would think that the number 23 would be the choice of NBA players. Not so.
In season 2022-23, the most common numbers in the NBA are #5 (picked by 22 players), followed by #3 and #8 (21 players for each number), then comes #11 (20 players), and #s 12 and 25 (17 players for each number).
Perhaps your finding difficulty in choosing your jersey number, this material we prepared will help your decide.
What are the NBA Jersey Number Rules?
Basketball jersey numbers are placed on NBA players’ uniforms to help fans, referees, opponents, broadcasters, and teammates recognize them.
The league allows players to pick any number from 0 to 99 and double digits such as 00, 23, or 32. However, some numbers are not allowed to be shown on the jersey.
The controversial number was requested by rabble-rousing Dennis Rodman when he joined the Dallas Mavericks in 2000. The team printed some jerseys with his name and 69 on them. The number 69 was banned by the league for its sexual implication.
Rodman’s request didn’t escape the watchful eyes of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and NBA commissioner David Stern and mandated a number switch. Rodman chose the number 70 (69+1) instead.
In honor of NBA legend Bill Russel who passed away recently, number 6 was retired by the league permanently. Bill Russel wore the jersey number during his 13-year career from 1956 to 1969.
Aside from retiring Russel’s number, the NBA prepared to honor the Boston Celtics’ great throughout the 2022-23 season. All NBA players will wear a memorial patch on their jerseys’ right shoulder. The sideline close to the NBA scorer’s table will show a clover-designed logo with the number 6. The Celtics team will have a distinctive recognition for Russel embossed on their uniforms.
Players currently wearing the number 6 on their jerseys can use it until retirement. These players are:
|Nickeil Alexander-Walker||Utah Jazz|
|Moses Brown||Cleveland Cavaliers (free agent)|
|Alex Caruso||Chicago Bulls|
|Hamidou Diallo||Detroit Pistons|
|David Duke Jr.||Brooklyn Nets (free agent)|
|Melvin Frazier||Oklahoma City Thunder (free agent)|
|Bryan Forbes||Denver Nuggets (signed with Minnesota Timberwolves in offseason)|
|Quentin Grimes||New York Knicks|
|LeBron James||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Keon Johnson||Portland Trailblazers|
|Jalen McDaniels||Charlotte Hornets|
|Jordan McLaughlin||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|Kenyon Martin Jr.||Houston Rockets|
|Lance Stephenson||Indiana Pacers|
|Lou Williams||Atlanta Hawks (free agent)|
Players who made exceptional contributions to their team stay in the mind of basketball fans. When they retire, their numbers leave with them. These numbers are hung at the team’s stadium for everyone to see.
In many cases, active players cannot use the retired number unless the honored player allows it. A Bulls player must seek permission from His Airness Michael Jordan to wear number 23 – good luck.
The Number is Locked Up
A teammate is wearing your number in mind, but a team should have no similar jersey number. Of course, you can talk to the guy and perhaps convince him to give up the number in your favor.
Yura Watanabe was wearing jersey number 12 playing for the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2018-19 season. Watanabe is a sports celebrity in Japan, and his jersey sales surpassed LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving.
Ja Morant was the number 2 pick in the NBA draft by the Grizzlies in the same year. Morant has been wearing number 12 since he started playing basketball, and it would be great to see him wear the same number in the NBA. Morant got into a friendly number talk with Watanabe, and from then on, Yura wore number 18.
Do NBA Players Get to Choose their Jersey Number?
The NBA jersey numbers rules allow players to choose from 0 to 99, except for restricted and locked-up numbers. Players select their number for several reasons, like their birthday, basketball players they admire, or they would like to maintain the number they have worn since they started playing.
Here are some stories about how some NBA athletes picked their number.
When players impact the game, their monikers, signature moves, and numbers become iconic in basketball. And no one comes close to MJ and the number 23, which is linked with him.
His Airness and older brother Larry were college teammates on the North Carolina Tar Heels team. Larry sported number 45, so MJ can’t wear the same number and must look for another number 23. He chose to halve 45, which is 22.5 and rounded it to 23.
The number 23 became one of the most popular sports jersey numbers.
The number 6 means a lot to King James, from his family to his beliefs.
His eldest son LeBron James Jr. was born on October 6, 2004.
While wearing jersey number 6, King James won two Olympic gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 games. King James played with the Miami Heat donning jersey number 6 for four seasons, winning back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.
LeBron wore the number 6 jersey when he shot the movie Space Jam 2.
“The Baby-Faced Assassin” Steph Curry wears number 30 to pay homage to his dad, Dell.
Father and son are incredibly close and share a strong relationship. Dell played for sixteen seasons in the NBA but never reached the prominence of his son. But Dell instilled his passion and love for basketball in Steph.
Steph’s tattoos represent his wife Ayesha, kids, and parents showing his love for his family.
Growing up, “The Don” Luka Doncic was a fan of Greek professional basketball player Vassilis Spanoulis, sporting jersey number 7. Doncic admired his idol and felt sad when Spanoulis retired.
Doncic couldn’t wear number 7 when he started playing because a teammate was using it, so he chose number 77, which he wears on his Dallas Mavericks jersey.
Why Do Some Players Change their Jersey Numbers?
Players get attached to their jersey number when they start playing basketball and bring it with them when they play in the NBA. Some NBA players change jersey numbers in the offseason for personal reasons. Here are some of them.
In 1994, His Airness shocked the basketball world by retiring and switching to professional baseball. Jordan played for the Birmingham Barons wearing baseball jersey number 45, the same number he wore on his high school basketball team.
After spending 21 months away from basketball, Jordan decided to return to the hardcourt. On March 18, 1995, His Airness was back and kept the number 45 jersey. Things went the Bulls’ way with Jordan’s 45; they were 16-6.
In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic, and some adjustments were needed. That was the last time the number 45 was seen on Jordan’s jersey. With the familiar number 23, Jordan scored 38 points and evened the series, but the Magic eventually won the playoff in six games.
On 1990 Valentine’s Day, the Bulls had a game against the Magic. Jordan’s jersey number 23 went missing, there was no backup uniform, and the fans did not have a number 23 jersey that could fit Jordan. The Bulls used a nameless number 12 jersey for Jordan during the game.
His Airness scored 49 points but lost to the Magic in OT.
As a show of respect to His Airness, King James changed his jersey number from 23 to 6 as a Lakers. LeBron believes no NBA player can match Jordan’s success and impact on the league.
The Most Common/Rarest Worn Jersey Numbers
NBA players are allowed to change their numbers during the off-season. The initial ball toss signals the start of the regular season of the NBA, and all jersey numbers stay.
Look at the breakdown of NBA jersey numbers for the NBA 2022-23 season.
|Jersey Number||Number of Players|
Jersey number 5 is on top of the list with 22 players wearing it, while 36,37, 38, 46, 59, 67, 91, 95, and 99 have a player each donning the jersey number.
Notable NBA Players by Jersey Number
Based on the information, here is a list of 20 notable players with their team and jersey numbers.
|Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors||30|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks||34|
|Nikola Jokic||Denver Nuggets||15|
|Luka Doncic||Dallas Mavericks||77|
|Kevin Durant||Brooklyn Nets||7|
|Joel Embiid||Philadelphia 76ers||21|
|Jayson Tatum||Boston Celtics||0|
|LeBron James||Los Angeles Lakers||6|
|Devin Booker||Phoenix Suns||1|
|Ja Morant||Memphis Grizzlies||12|
|Jimmy Butler||Miami Heat||22|
|Kawhi Leonard||Los Angeles Clippers||2|
|Trae Young||Atlanta Hawks||11|
|Donovan Mitchell||Cleveland Cavaliers||45|
|Kyrie Irving||Brooklyn Nets||11|
|Paul George||Los Angeles Clippers||13|
|Zach LaVine||Chicago Bulls||8|
|Damian Lillard||Portland Trail Blazers||0|
|DeMar DeRozan||Chicago Bulls||11|
|Jaylen Brown||Boston Celtics||7|
Steph Curry was at his deadliest form, shooting like crazy with a 44% clip from afar against the Celtics for the 2022 NBA championship. The dude’s average was 31.2 points, six rebounds, and 5 assists for his fourth championship ring and first NBA Finals MVP.
The “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo barely missed a ticket to the 2022 NBA championship losing to the Celtics in an epic game 7. The guy has nowhere to go but up with an NBA Finals MVP and an NBA championship trophy in his young career.
Back-to-back reigning MVP “The Joker” Nikola Jokic is a two-way player; he’s a scoring machine and a terror on defense. Jokic’s average for the past two seasons (2021-22) of 26.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 8.1 assists, and shooting 58% tells all.
Wrapping Things Up: 6 Most Common Jersey Numbers in the NBA
Some of the most common worn jersey numbers in the NBA season 2022-23 are #5 worn by 22 players, followed by #s 3 and 8 with 21 players each, then #11 picked by 20 players, and #s 12 and 25 with 17 players for each number.
The league allows players to choose their jersey numbers, but they don’t pick them randomly; there’s a story behind their choice. And the NBA has restrictions before players can wear their preferred number on their uniform.
NBA players think deeply before deciding the jersey number to wear on their uniforms.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.
> What is the Most Worn Number in the NBA?