As you watch him play basketball, you may notice that New Orleans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has several visual reminders that he’s a native of Toronto, including a depiction of the city’s famous CN Tower on his right arm. There’s also a Canadian flag and references to his street address as a youngster, among several other items.
By switching uniform numbers for the 2020-21 season, the 22-year-old now has arguably the most prominent acknowledgement of his birthplace, which is Canada’s largest metropolis (population 2.9 million). Known as “The Six” due to its area code of 416 and hip-hop star Drake popularizing that nickname by using it in his songs, Toronto is one element of why Alexander-Walker opted for a new uniform number, as he explained in the first edition of Pelicans.com’s weekly 24 Seconds Q&A feature:
Pelicans.com: You’ve changed your uniform number from 0 to 6 this season. There was speculation that switching to 6 was due to you being from Toronto – which is often referred to as “The Six.” Is that the reason?
Alexander-Walker: It’s part of the reason. It’s just something that represents me, being from Toronto. Also from high school, I had a group of six friends that I was really, really close with. Also there are six (principles) that I’ve tried to live my life by after my first year (in the NBA). Six just resonated in my life for a lot of different reasons, for what I need to do to get better and improve in life. It felt like the right thing to do.
Pelicans.com: Did you like wearing 0? Or did it not quite feel right, or maybe there was some reason you wanted to switch away from 0?
Alexander-Walker: Well, last year was pretty hard mentally, being a rookie and it’s hard to adjust to things. I felt like last year I went through a lot off the court within myself that I wanted to let go of. So letting go of 0 and putting it to rest was leaving all of last year behind and working on something new.
Pelicans.com: You wore No. 4 in college at Virginia Tech. Did you want 4 at the start of your rookie season, but couldn’t have it because of JJ Redick already choosing it?
Alexander-Walker: For me, wearing 4 was for my uncle, who helped me and taught me the game. I wanted to wear it to honor him. Then starting my career in the NBA, it was my lifelong dream, so I wanted a number of my own.
Pelicans.com: Are there any former players who wore No. 6 that you wanted to acknowledge? For example, in NBA history, two of the most prominent 6s are Dr. J (Julius Erving) and Bill Russell.
Alexander-Walker: [laughs] I never really thought about it or those guys, players who’ve worn 6 before. I guess hopefully the number brings me good luck as well.