Every time we speak of the number 23 in basketball, we immediately think of none other than, the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan. It’s as if no.23 is synonimous to MJ’s legacy. However, there have been quite a handful of other great players in NBA history who have also worn the jersey number. Alongside the 75th anniversary of the league, let’s take a look at the 10 best players who have ever won 23.
10. Fred VanVleet
Years worn: 2017-present (Toronto Raptors)
VanVleet’s career may be inspirational and very surprising to aspiring NBA players. He was undrafted in 2016 but went on to play with the Raptor’s G-League affiliate until he got called up in the team’s roster in 2017. With his help, the Raptors won the championship in 2019 against the Golden State Warriors. Now, here’s the most interesting part: VanVleet becomes an All-Star in 2022, thus making him one of the only 5 undrafted players to be selected in the All-Star game. He joined Moses Malone, John Starks, Brad Miller, and Ben Wallace. So far, he is keeping his level of play in the 2022-2023 season. This year, he is averaging 19 points and 6 assists per game while leading the Raptors in the East.
9. Draymond Green
Years worn: 2013-present (Golden State Warriors)
Some of you would argue that Draymond Green doesn’t deserve to be on this list. But, we got to acknowledges how impressive Green’s career and how valuable his impact is to the Golden State Warriors dynasty.
The 2017 Defensive Player of the Year is the Warriors’ scrapper and someone who does the dirty work while Steph and Klay does most of the damage. He is also the leader of GSW despite having multiple All-Stars in the team. Admit it or not, this team would have not won 4 rings in 6 years if Green wasn’t around.
8. Mark Aguirre
Years worn: 1989-1992 (Detroit Pistons)
As a 3-time NBA All-Star, Mark Aguirre was definitely a bucket-getter in his prime. Throughout his career, Aguirre averaged 20 points per game. His best year came in 1983 when he averaged almost 30 points a night with the Dallas Mavericks. He continued his 20-point average for 4 more years until he was traded to Detroit where he became a role player but was still an offensive threat behind Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. With the Pistons, he won two rings (1989, 1990).
7. Alex English
Years worn: 1977 (Milwaukee Bucks)
Only real fans would remember how amazing Alex English was in Denver Nuggets during the early ’80s. Yes, he was not a Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Larry Bird, or Michael Jordan, but English was nonetheless a deadly scorer. Did you know that he was the top scorer during the ’80s? From 1980 to 1989, English scored 21,000 points. At his peak, he was comparable to Paul George with his ability to score the ball with skill and finesse. Truthfully, he is one of the most underrated and underappreciated Hall-of-Famers in the sport. However, English only rocked the number 23 for one year (1977). He mostly wore 22 in Milwaukee and number 2 in Denver.
6. Lou Hudson
Years worn: 1967~1977 (St. Louis Hawks/Atlanta Hawks), 1978-1979 (Los Angeles Lakers)
Lou “Sweet Lou” Hudson had an amazing 13 -year career. Being named to 6 All-Star selections is not an easy feat knowing that he and his team was from the ABA (before the ABA-NBA merger). His playstyle would inspire the type of players in the following generations with how good he shoots the ball. His jumpshot was so fluid, hence the nickname. Aside from that, he was also very athletic and was one of the most entertaining stars to watch during the ’70s. Sadly, Sweet Lou passed away in 2014, years before he was enshrined to the NBA Hall-of-Fame (2022).
5. Jimmy Butler
Years worn: 2018-2019 (Minnesota Timberwolves), 2019 (Philadelphia 76ers)
After blossoming in Chicago, Jimmy Butler became an excellent two-way player. Drafted by the Bulls in 2011, nobody expected much from him. However he developed into a fine player who can be a threat on offense while also being a defensive nightmare to opposing teams. His leadership and mentality brought the Miami Heat in the Finals in 2021 but fell short against the Lebron James-led Los Angeles Lakers. Since his breakout season in 2014 – except in 2018-2019 season – Butler never averaged less than 20 points per game and was selected to 6 All-Star games. Additionally, he has been named to 3 All-NBA teams and 5 All-Defensive teams.
4. Mitch Richmond
Years worn: 1989-1991 (Golden State Warriors), 2002 (Los Angeles Lakers)
It’s sad that probably the most exciting trio in the ’90s failed to win a championship. Golden State Warrior’s RUN TMC was a revolutionary team that was way ahead of their time.
One member of the infamous trio was the sharpshooter Mitch Richmond. Richmond, a Hall-of-Famer, a 6-time all-star, 5-time All-NBA, and 1988 Rookie of the Year is a very underrated star during Jordan’s era. Today, Richmond would certainly flourish especially that the league is commanded by fast-paced gameplay and most players have the tendency to shoot the three-ball, something Richmond and RUN TMC are accustomed to.
3. Anthony Davis
Years worn: 2013-2019 (New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans)
Believe it or not, Anthony Davis may be the most, if not the most, talented and skill power forward we have seen. A 7-footer who shoots the ball from anywhere on the court, can become a defensive nightmare in the paint, and handles the ball like a guard. Truth be told, Davis is a very complete player. The only thing that puts him behind in ranking than other power forwards is his unavailability. Most of the time, AD scares the hell out of his fans with his injuries. He may not have any serioues injuries but he always seems to be hurt.
2. LeBron James
Years worn: 2004-2010, 2015-2018 (Cleveland Cavaliers), 2019-present (Los Angeles Lakers)
LBJ admitted to idolize his airness, Michael Jordan, thus he chose to wear 23 in Cleveland. If only the number wasn’t retired in Miami, LeBron would also have worn it there. Before he was even drafted, LBJ was already deemed to be “The Chosen One”. Thankfully, that became true. Even at his 19th season, he is still playing at an elite level and hasn’t seem to be slowing down. The King is a 4-time MVP, 4-time champion, 18-time All-Star and 18-time All-NBA, but he still comes in 2nd for the best player to wear no.23, or does he?
1. Michael Jordan
Years worn: 1985-1998 (Chicago Bulls), 2002-2003 (Washington Wizards)
You thought there was someone better? This shouldn’t even be discussed. Michael Jordan is 23 just like 23 is Michael Jordan. Fight me!
Lauri Markkanen, Lou Williams, Marcus Camby, Blake Griffin, Kevin Martin, Calvin Murphy