According to Basketball-Reference, there have been more than 200 professional basketball players who have worn the jersey number 23 in NBA and ABA history. And while it's obvious that not all of them have done it to pay tribute to Michael Jordan—for example, Celtics guard Ernie "Black Jack" Barrett was rocking No. 23 all the way back in 1953, a full decade before MJ was even born—the number has become synonymous with Jordan's greatness in recent years. So even though MJ himself was quick to point out that he doesn't own the No. 23, it's impossible for us to see or hear "23," inside or outside the context of basketball, and not automatically think "Michael Jordan."
Because of this, there were some people out there who weren't happy to hear that LeBron James has decided to start wearing the No. 23 again now that he has returned to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers. Despite the fact that it's the number that LeBron wore for the first seven years of his NBA career, they don't think LBJ deserves to wear the number that MJ made famous.
When you really think about it, though, who does deserve to wear No. 23 in the post-Michael Jordan era? Probably no one (which is why the NBA should retire it, as LeBron himself once suggested, sooner than later), although that hasn't stopped guys from doing it anyway. So after hearing about LeBron's plans to wear the number again next season—and after seeing adidas start to mass-produce his new Cavs No. 23 jersey, which is already up for sale—we decided to put together a list Ranking the 41 NBA Players Who Have Worn the No. 23 Since Michael Jordan Retired—From Least Deserving to LeBron. Let's see who wore it best.
Written by Chris Yuscavage (@CYuscavage), who grew up a big Michael Jordan fan but, strangely enough, only ever owned one MJ jersey—and it featured the No. 45 on it.