When basketball fans see #23, Michael Jordan is typically the first player that comes to mind.
Considered by most to be the greatest to ever play the game, MJ is a six-time NBA champion and five-time league MVP, who notched 32,292 career points and thrived during crunch time.
Nike’s Jordan brand has further made the number synonymous with His Airness.
While many players shy away from the 23 in order to fend off comparisons to Jordan, there are a few who have been brave enough to boast the number on their jerseys and still manage to make a name for themselves.
Here are the NBA’s most notable 23’s since Jordan hung up the numbers:
The list has to start with the “Air” apparent himself, King James.
LeBron rocked the #23 jersey coming up as a prep phenom at Saint Vincent-Saint Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. He continued to identify as #23 when he was drafted number one overall by the Cavs in 2003.
The four-time NBA MVP switched to #6 while taking a sabbatical in Miami (who retired #23 in homage to Jordan), where he led the Heat to four straight NBA Finals and two championship rings.
LBJ will once again be wearing #23 this season, as part of his return to Cleveland.
The Cambyman can and did suit up as #23 for several of his years in the NBA, most notably those with the Knicks, where he was a vital part of Jeff Van Gundy’s tenacious crew in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The crew scrapped its way to the NBA Finals in 1999.
The 6’11" center continued to wear #23 when he moved on to the Nuggets, where he was the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year. Camby retired after the 2013 season with an impressive career stat line of 9.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
While he is an able scorer, averaging 17.3 points per game over 12 seasons, Jason Richardson’s basketball résumé pales in comparison to Jordan’s.
The two 23’s do, however, have one thing in common: back-to-back slam dunk championships.
Richardson upped the ante for the All-Star weekend event by incorporating the self alley-oop, which he used as a setup to numerous acrobatic dunks that dazzled the fans, judges and even MJ himself on the way to the 2002 and 2003 crowns.
Metta World Peace
This is a man who has changed numbers even more than he has changed names. The intimidating forward who now goes by The Panda’s Friend and wears shoes with stuffed animals attached to them while playing in China, wore #23 for part of his tenure with the Indiana Pacers. That was back when he went by his birth name, Ron Artest.
While he might be known best for instigating the Malice at the Palace, he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 (as #23) and was a key cog for the 2010 NBA Champion Lakers.
Another gem from the prep-to-pros era of the NBA, J.R. rocked #23 when he burst onto the scene with the New Orleans Hornets as a rookie in 2004.
Perhaps it was foreboding for J.R., who claimed via Instagram this summer that he is on pace to be one of the greatest shooters ever.
Last season, when the New York Post asked about how J.R.'s Knicks should approach their defensive woes, he responded, “That’s really not my area of expertise. I’m more of a scoring type of player.”
Recently, Smith told ESPN New York that he was having a tough time adjusting to the Knicks triangle offense because it brings a new twist to his game:
"Trying to think about the rest of the team over myself or my scoring is something that I have never had to do before," the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year admitted.
Though Davis has only played two NBA seasons thus far, both as #23, the Pelican has already made his way onto this list.
He was an All-Star last season and he has averaged 17.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game during his fledgling career.
The 6’10" forward has a unique skillset, as he is an impressive ball handler in the open court. The rising star’s constant highlight reel plays on both ends of the floor, which should be enough to make sure opponents “Fear the Brow” for many seasons to come.
Top Photo Courtesy: Stuarte