Ever read Uni Watch at espn.com? A great column, one of the better reads on the internet.
Paul Lukas, the author of Uni Watch, posted a nifty article a couple of weeks ago with a brief write-up on the best reasons for wearing each jersey number from 0 (Al Oliver, Rey Ordonez) to 99 (Wayne Gretzky, Turk Wendell).
Naturally, it got me to thinking about Sonic jersey numbers. With my trusty Sonic media guide in hand, I set out to find the best player at each jersey number in team history. Here we go:
0: Olden Polynice. Accept no imitations.
00: Benoit Benjamin. Only for his marvelous performance against the Blazers in the 90-91 playoffs.
1: Gus Williams. Sorry, Sherrell Ford, but when a guy gets his numbered retired, I think he gets the honor.
2: Gary Payton. Everybody remembers GP as #20, but he started out as #2.
3: Some interesting fellas here; Dana Barros, Greg Kelser, Burnin Vernon Maxwell, Eric Snow, but the best 3 in Seattle history is the best 3-point shooter in Seattle history: Dale Ellis.
4: Currently Nick Collison rocks the 4 (although he plays the 5, curiously), but Sedale Threatt gets the nod; tip of the cap to Al Wood, if only because he got traded for Dale Ellis in a steal of a deal.
5: Avery Johnson, many moons ago, as part of the greatest collaboration of PG talent in NBA history (AJ, Nate, Threatt, John Lucas, all on the same squad).
6: Only one candidate, Moochie Norris.
7: Rashard, and if he sticks around, it’ll eventually be retired.
8: Well, you’ve got the white folks (Scott Meents and Luke Ridnour), and you’ve got the not-so-good Eddie Johnson and Kevin Ollie. But how can you not pick Lonnie Shelton?
9: I hate to give him 2 awards, since he doesn’t deserve it, but clearly Dale Ellis is more deserving than either Randy Livinston or the Potato, Vitaly Potapenko, right?
10: When your nickname is Mac-10, you get the award. Sorry, Bob Love.
11: Detlef Schrempf, not surprisingly, took a very efficient number for his jersey.
12: Ick; Drew Barry, Damien Wilkins, Quintin Dailey, Art Harris, Nick Weatherspoon, Bob Weiss... do I have to pick someone? I’ll go with Dailey, only because he once ordered – and ate – a hot dog on the Sonics’ bench.
13: Slick Watts, of course. A Sonic, and Seattle icon, through and through. Big Snacks and Kendall Gill get honorable mention.
14: Greatest sign in Sonic history: “Sam, Sam, Sam for Mayor!” Sam Perkins, Big Smooth, slowest deep threat in team history.
15: Yikes, 11 guys to sort through. Well, toss out Gerald Henderson, Gelabale, Lucas, Flip Murray, Bud Stallworth, Aaron Williams, ... who do we have left? Ahh, Vinnie Johnson (love The Microwave) and Eddie Johnson (the good one). I’ll go with EJ, simply because I loved the way he was able to score in any situation.
16: Tom Burleson. No other competitors.
17: The Fiddler! Vincent Askew makes an appearance.
18: Mo Sene, because he’s the only guy to ever wear this number in team history.
19: Lenny Wilkens. Hey, he’s Team President, right? Right?
20: The Glove gets some decent competition (James Bailey, Maurice Lucas) and some not-so-decent competition (Jon Sundvold, Eugene Short), but, seriously, this ain’t even an argument.
21: A lucky 13 folks have worn this number, from Gerald Paddio to Danny Fortson to Butch Beard to Ricky Pierce. And don’t forget Dennis Awtrey or Ruben Patterson, an Odd Couple if there ever was one. I’ll take Pierce, coming off a screen, and then ambling on down the court.
22: Oh, Jim McIlvaine, you overpaid stiff, you. Sure, logic says Danny Young or Pierce or even Bill Hanzlik were better, but who remembers them, when you helped to bring down an entire franchise?
23: In his second incarnation with the Supes, OP went for 23, but I’m going with Danny Vranes, the Sonics’ most-recent #5 pick in the draft, in the hopes it will remind the front office not to opt for undersized small forwards from the WAC.
24: Wow. Over here you’ve got Dennis Johnson, DJ, RIP, Finals MVP and all that. Then in that corner, you’ve got Tommy Chambers, All-Star MVP, best dunking white man you ever did see. And let’s not forget Spencer Haywood, who actually had the jersey retired in his name this year. Can I wimp out with a 3-way tie? I guess not; got to give it to Haywood, because he was better than either of the other two (though not by much).
25: What, a current player? What’s this? Earl Watson, come on down. I’ll give special mention to David Wingate and, sadly, Rich King.
27: John Johnson, the original JJ. Averaged a Pippen-esque 5.3 boards and 5.2 assists in the championship season, then upped those numbers again in the playoffs. When you look up unsung in the dictionary, John Howard Getty Johnson stares you right back in the face.
29: Mike Wilks, for the greatest end-of-the-season run in 3rd-string point guard history. Let’s hope David Locke’s favorite underdog gets a nice, fat guaranteed contract from somebody next year.
Alright, that’s enough for one day. I’ll finish up with numbers 30 and up later this week. If you’ve got any arguments, or if I’ve omitted anyone, feel free to post them in the comments section and we’ll try to make the corrections.