SALT LAKE CITY — When Thabo Sefolosha joined the Utah Jazz two years ago, like all players, he had the chance to choose his own number.
Well, sort of.
The problem was, the two numbers he had worn throughout his NBA career, 2 and 25, were both already taken by Jazz players Joe Ingles and Raul Neto. So Sefolosha had to decide on a new number and chose No. 22, which just so happened to be the most popular number in franchise history.
Sefolosha became the 18th player to wear number 22, joining such Jazz players as Eric White, Dave Jamerson, Brooks Thompson and Jerrelle Benimon, the most recent player to sport double-deuce, who played in two games back in 2015. Some of the better players to wear 22 include Nate Williams from the New Orleans days, and Bernard King and John Drew from the early '80s.
“It’s a math problem — two plus two equals four, four plus four equals eight,” said Sefolosha at first when asked about going with 22.
Then getting serious, he said, “Honestly, I like 2 and 5 and 25 was already taken and 2 was also taken (as was 5). So I went with 22. You take what’s available.”
Neto also wasn’t able to get the number he wanted when he came to the Jazz as a rookie in 2015 and said his choice of 25 was pretty arbitrary.
“My number was 8 when I was overseas and when I came to the league, somebody else was No. 8,” he said. “I couldn’t pick that, so it was just like a random choice.”
Like Sefolosha, Neto doesn’t have a lot of big names to live up to, although Al Jefferson was a solid player for the three seasons he played here from 2010 to 2013. Other No. 25s in Utah include Terry Furlow, John Crotty and Mo Williams.
Crotty, a backup to John Stockton, has the distinction of wearing both of the most popular Jazz numbers. He wore No. 25 from 1992 to 1995 and No. 22 in 2000-01 in his second stint with the Jazz before switching back to 25 for the following season. Crotty is one of 11 Jazz players who have worn two different numbers while with the Jazz.
Greg Ostertag was another who wore two numbers as he gave up his No. 00 so Olden Polynice could wear No. 0 when he joined the team in 1999 and switched to No. 39. However, he took back 00 when Polynice left in 2001.
Tied with the No. 25 for second among the most popular Jazz numbers of all time is No. 33, which is currently worn by Ekpe Udoh.
Udoh is playing with his fourth NBA team but has already switched numbers five times. He started off with No. 20 at Golden State, wore 13 and 5 while with Milwaukee and 13 with the Los Angeles Clippers.
When he played college basketball at Baylor, Udoh wore No. 13 and wanted that number when he joined the Warriors as the No. 6 overall pick in 2010. However, that number had been retired for a player who only played six seasons with the Warriors — a guy named Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 41.5 points and 25.1 rebounds with the then San Francisco Warriors.
Then when Udoh joined the Jazz in the summer of 2017, the No. 13 had already been claimed by draft pick Tony Bradley, so Udoh had to figure out a brand new number.
“I wanted to be 8, but Jonas (Jerebko) got that,” he said.
Udoh consulted with a good friend, University of North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll, who was an assistant coach at Baylor when Udoh played there and they decided to go with 33.
Among the 16 players to have worn 33 were former Ute Greg Deane, former Cougar Fred Roberts and most recently, Trevor Booker and Boris Diaw.
No. 25 was also Kyle Korver’s favorite number, one he wore all his life, through high school and in college at Creighton University. However, when he started his NBA career in Philadelphia, a 6-foot-10 forward named Marc Jackson already had the number.
“All the other numbers I wanted were either retired or already taken and there were no numbers left,” recalls Korver. So instead he decided to carve his own path.
“I said, ‘You know what, I’m just going to make up a number I’ve never seen anyone be in my whole life.’ So I chose one more than 25 and I’ve been 26 my whole career, every single game.”
Right now there are two other 26s in the NBA, Mitchell Robinson of New York and Ray Spalding of Dallas. But at this point, Korver is certainly the best No. 26 in NBA history.
Rudy Gobert chose No. 27 to remind himself and everyone else where he was drafted — No. 27 in the first round in 2013, when he thought he should have been much higher.
Perhaps Gobert started a trend, because there are four other No. 27s in the league -— Jamal Murray of Denver, Jusuf Nurkic of Portland, Zaza Pachulia of Detroit and Daniel Theis of Boston.
Jae Crowder wore No. 9 when he first came into the NBA with Dallas, but when he was traded to Boston, that jersey was taken by Rajon Rondo. He decided to switch to 99 to honor a childhood friend, Eric Thompson, who wore that number as a collegiate football player.
You’d think Crowder might be the best No. 99 in NBA history, but that honor goes to George Mikan, the Hall of Fame center who led the Minneapolis Lakers to seven NBA titles in the 1940s and '50s.
Then there’s Donovan Mitchell. He chose No. 45 because that’s what Michael Jordan wore in his short-lived stint as a baseball player and briefly in the NBA when he first came back with the Washington Wizards. Mitchell said he chose 45 to pay homage to Jordan and his baseball career, since baseball was Mitchell’s first love.
When it comes right down to it, do jersey numbers really matter?
Udoh, who has already switched numbers five times in his seven-year NBA career, says it doesn't, but he adds, “For some folks, they’ll pay a nice price to get a number, for sure.”
Sefolosha says it’s not a big deal.1 comment on this story
“To me, it’s not,” he said. “I’m not a real superstitious guy. I’ve got a few things I like to do with my routine and stuff, but for me it’s not that important.”
Sefolosha said he had no idea he was choosing the most popular jersey number in Jazz history when he picked No. 22. When informed his was the most common number among former Jazz players, Sefolosha said, “Really? Oh wow I didn’t know that. That’s interesting. I’m one of many.”
When it was suggested that he had a chance to be the most prominent No. 22 in Jazz history, Sefolosha smiled and said, “I’ve got to make that happen.”