Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
Another Friday the 13th is upon us, and since I’ve already covered unlucky moments in a previous Friday Five, this time I thought I’d mark the occasion by listing my five favourite NBA players who have worn number thirteen. I’m sure a couple of those players will come as no surprise for anyone who knows my nationality and favourite NBA team, but a couple of my other picks may be somewhat unexpected.
Despite its reputation as an unlucky number in Western superstition, a total of 169 NBA players have worn the number thirteen jersey. Four of those players have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, including of course the great Wilt Chamberlain. Without any further ado, here are my five favourite NBA players to have worn number thirteen.
1. Luc Longley
Let’s begin with the player I’m sure most regular readers were expecting to see: Luc Longley. Long Luc was the first Australian to be drafted and play in the NBA, so as an Aussie basketball fan growing up in the 90s, I couldn’t help but be a fan. For Australian ballers with NBA aspirations, he stands as something of a pioneer and a role model. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the other Australians who have found success in the NBA have been the ones who have followed his example, playing college ball in the United States and entering the Draft, as opposed to beginning their professional career in the NBL.
As long-time visitors to the NLSC and regular readers of the Friday Five are likely well aware, I am and always have been a Chicago Bulls fan. Having an Aussie as the starting centre of my favourite team as they won three consecutive championships in the 90s was pretty special. Longley was never a star, but he was solid in the middle for the Bulls during that run. He’s not an all-time great, but he’s definitely one of my personal all-time favourites, and an automatic inclusion on my list of favourite number thirteens.
2. Joakim Noah
I’ll get the other obvious inclusion out of the way early, too. Noah is of course currently wearing number thirteen for the Bulls, and as the ninth pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, he’s proven to be one of their best selections in the past decade or so. A huge thank you goes out to Isiah Thomas for that one, as the Bulls had that pick courtesy of the Eddy Curry trade. Noah has definitely worked out a lot better than Curry did, and despite various nagging injuries, he’s been one of their best players. I love his energy, his defense, his ability to run the offense at the five spot, and his ability to knock down mid-range jumpers despite an “interesting” shooting form.
I was actually in New York and attended the 2007 NBA Draft, as part of the NBA Live 08 Community Event. I remember Noah getting selected by the Bulls, and doing the Florida Gators “chomp” as he walked across the stage. I also remember the other guys telling me that I should be really happy the Bulls picked up Noah, and that in the build we had played the previous day, he’d tentatively been placed on the Bulls’ roster so that we could play with him and the other Class of 2007 rookies. The guys weren’t wrong: I’m certainly happy the Bulls managed to land him.
3. Mike James
And so we come to the first player on the list who might be a surprise. I wouldn’t say that I’m a huge fan of Mike James in real life, though he has had a couple of stints with the Chicago Bulls (albeit wearing number eight both times). He’s had a fairly respectable journeyman career in the NBA, latching on here and there, winning a title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004, and having a career year with the Toronto Raptors in 2006, in which he averaged 20.3 ppg.
James actually makes this list because of his video game performance, specifically as a member of the Chicago Bulls in my NBA Live 06 Dynasty game. After acquiring him in exchange for Chris Duhon, he turned out to be a solid player to bring off the bench in my second season. Although he only averaged 5.6 points per game during the regular season and just three points per game in the Playoffs, there were times when I was be able to knock down a few threes with him to jumpstart runs, and build big leads. His numbers may not have been jaw-dropping, but he proved to be a worthwhile acquisition, and fun to have on the roster.
4. Steve Nash
I remember when Steve Nash was drafted back in 1996, a basketball magazine previewing the 1997 season described him as a poor man’s John Stockton. While that’s something of a backhanded compliment, it didn’t turn out to be too bad of a prediction. I wouldn’t say that Nash has surpassed Stockton – even with back-to-back MVP awards to his name – but I think it’s fair to say that he’s eclipsed that particular comparison to firmly establish himself as Steve Nash, all-time great point guard in his own right, and future Hall of Famer.
It’s a shame that Nash isn’t ending his career on a better note. About the best thing he’s done since joining the Los Angeles Lakers is this amusing video of fans on the highway handing him a beer. Still, he’s had a great career, even without a championship ring on his resume. It’s funny to think that in his rookie year, he was part of a point guard rotation in Phoenix that also included Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson. They weren’t all in their prime at that stage of their careers, but that was a lot of talent for one team to have at the point. As an aside, playing with him as a rookie in NBA Live 97, I once had him rack up back-to-back 30+ assist games.
5. David Andersen
I have to admit that it was actually tough to find a fifth player that I wanted to include on this list. Of the 169 players who have worn number thirteen to date, there have been several players who have had noteworthy careers – certainly more noteworthy than David Andersen – but I don’t really have a strong opinion of them one way or the other, at least as far as picking out my favourites. For those who are unaware, Andersen is an Aussie, so that went a ways in helping me make up my mind.
Andersen only lasted a couple of years in the NBA, but he didn’t fare too badly during his time in the league. He shot the ball decently in his second season, showed he had three point range, and averaged around 14 points and eight rebounds per 36 in his 103 career games. I was hoping that he’d be the next Aussie to make it big in the NBA, but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. He continues to play professional ball in Europe, where he’s not doing too badly for himself, and continues to wear number thirteen.
Special Mention: Sarunas Marciulionis
As I said, it was tough to find a fifth player to round out the list, and Sarunas Marciulionis – one of the first Europeans to find success in the NBA – was on the shortlist, as he’s a player that I remember from the 90s. What I remember most about him however, and what earns him a special mention alongside my list of five players, is that he was the answer to a “Who am I?” trivia question in a basketball magazine back in the day, with the clue being “Rain In Muscular Oasis”. As far as creative anagrams of names are concerned, that has to be right up there with J.K. Rowling’s “Tom Marvolo Riddle”/”I Am Lord Voldemort”.
That’s all for this week. I hope that you enjoyed reading about my favourite number thirteens on this Friday the 13th; let me know your favourite players to have worn that supposedly unlucky number in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to join in the discussion in the NLSC Forum! Thanks for checking in, please join me again next Friday for another Five.