Numbers Game

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What is it about a player’s number? Their number could have great significance. It could date back to his childhood. Or it might just be the one Cavs equipment manager, Mark “Cobra” Cashman hands out.

But some players are so recognizable by their uniform numbers that it almost becomes a pseudonym in itself. Michael Jordan, for example, is and will always be “No. 23” – no matter how many players and pretenders have donned that digit since his departure.

On the other side of the coin, there’s Ron Artest – who seemingly changes numbers every year and currently dons No. 37 because that’s the amount of weeks that Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was the top song on the Billboard charts.

This season’s new-look Cavaliers will feature five new members with five new numbers. Emblazoned on the back of their sweet new uniforms, Christian Eyenga will wear No. 8, Joey Graham will wear No. 12, Ryan Hollins will wear No. 5, Samardo Samuels will wear No. 24 and Ramon Sessions will wear No. 3.

Graham’s brother, Stephen, donned No. 1 in his tour of duty with Cleveland. When he left, Daniel Gibson usurped the number he wore in high school and college.

Mo Williams wears No. 2 because No. 25 – which he wore at Alabama and with Milwaukee – belongs to Mark Price and is currently immortalized in the rafters at The Q.

Danny Green wears No. 14 because it’s a revered football number in his hometown of New Babylon, N.Y. Jamario Moon wears No. 15 because that’s his first number as a pro with the Mobile Revelers. Antawn Jamison has worn No. 4 since his arrival in the NBA. Anderson Varejao has worn No. 17 since it was given to him on the junior national team in Brazil.

If you’re looking for some spiritual and international significance, Anthony Parker – a two-time Euroleague MVP with Maccabi Tel Aviv – wears No. 18 because of its association with life and success in the Jewish faith. Jawad Williams and Leon Powe are returning to their roots. Williams dons No. 31 – his number at St. Ed’s. Leon Powe went from the single goose-egg in Boston back to No. 44 – from his AAU days back in Oakland.

And then there’s No. 21, J.J. Hickson – who wore No. 2 in high school and No. 1 at North Carolina State.

Since their inception as a franchise in 1970, no Cavalier has ever worn 26, 28, 37, 38 or 39. The highest number ever worn by a Cavalier was worn by Drew Gooden -- No. 90 -- who simply combined his numbers from Memphis (0) and Orlando (9).

The most popular digit among Cavaliers is No. 32, which was worn by 13 players over the years and, most recently, Joe Smith.

Of course, six Cavaliers jerseys are retired. Those belong to Nate Thurmond (42), Austin Carr (34), Bingo Smith (7), Mark Price (25), Brad Daugherty (43) and Larry Nance (22).

Earl Tatum wore No. 43 before it was retired for Brad Daugherty; Dwight Davis wore No. 42 before Nate Thurmond.

Even those players’ numbers weren’t carved in stone, though. Before wearing No. 34, Austin Carr wore Nance’s 22. And before Nance decommissioned that digit, he wore No. 6.

Campy Russell wore three numbers – No. 4, 21 and 22. Terrell Brandon wore No. 11 before graduating to No. 1. Robert Traylor wore both No. 32 and No. 54. Clyde Frazier arrived wearing No. 10 and left wearing No. 11. Steve Kerr wore both No. 4 and No. 5. Bimbo Coles wore No. 12 and No. 50, a strange number for a guard. Bill Laimbeer wore both 41 and 52 and Chris Dudley went from No. 22 to 23.

Jeff McInnis and Lari Ketner sported the donut “0” and Milos Babic, Benoit Benjamin and Darnell Jackson all sported “00.”

Two former Cavaliers that are currently coaching both wore the Deuce. Atlanta head coach Mike Woodson and the reigning Coach of the Year, Oklahoma City’s Scott Brooks both wore No. 2. Former Wizards and Sixers coach Eddie Jordan was No. 30.

There are certain numbers that have only been worn once – and one of those will never be worn again – No. 7, Bingo Smith. No player before or since has worn No. 29 (Mike Wilks), No. 34 (Austin Carr), No. 36 (Paul Thompson), No. 51 (Michael Doleac) or No. 90 (Gooden).

Within weeks, Cavalier fans will be getting used to some new players in some new numbers. But the biggest number the Wine and Gold will concern themselves with is the one at the left side of the Won-Lost column.