The #23 jersey might be the most popular jersey in NBA history. It was the number that was worn by some of the greatest players ever, most famously by Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Looking back at NBA history, there have been many more players that have worn the famous jersey number on their backs. But do they come close to how great Jordan and James were as superstars?
We have collected the 10 greatest players in NBA history who wore the #23 jersey, based on their impact on the game and also what they achieved as individuals and as part of a team. Anytime a player wears #23, greatness comes to mind. That is why a player must be careful to wear that number on the court because fans’ attention will be on them from the minute they step on the floor. Here are the 10 greatest players to ever wear the #23 jersey with the caveat that they wore the jersey number for at least 3 seasons, which means players such as Jimmy Butler (2 seasons) will not be included.
10. Kevin Martin
Career Statistics: 17.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Years Worn: 2005-2010, 2013-2016
A supremely gifted scorer whose job was to get buckets, Kevin Martin made a living by taking shots from the perimeter and slicing to the basket. A 6’7” guard, Martin had a height advantage most teams he played against his opponents and found averaging 20 PPG second-nature to him. That is why he had 7 seasons putting up over 20 PPG in his career.
K-Mart never made an All-Star Team because he was focused on scoring and not much else, but he blossomed in that role. In many ways, Martin would have been an all-time great 6th man had teams thought of him being a fire-starter off the bench for most of his career. Nonetheless, because of his scoring talents, Kevin Martin is a top-10 player to have ever worn #23, a number he wore for 10 seasons of his career.
9. Jason Richardson
Career Statistics: 17.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Years Worn: 2002-2015
Jason Richardson is one of the most electrifying stars in NBA history. Richardson was a good shooter and defender throughout his NBA career, but his athleticism was his greatest attribute. Richardson exploded off his feet for jams probably quicker than anyone in history, and he was a walking highlight reel. Richardson has an unlimited amount of memorable dunks but his 2002 and 2003 Dunk Contest performances have to take the cake as his greatest feats.
Other than his Dunk Contest awards, J-Rich averaged 17.1 PPG on 37.0% shooting from three over his career. As a member of the Warriors and Suns, Richardson could get hot in an instant and had no problem taking his shots when he was in a groove. The shooting guard was explosive, confident, and a fan-favorite throughout his NBA career which is why he is one of the best players to wear #23.
8. Marcus Camby
Career Statistics: 9.5 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.4 BPG
Years Worn: 1999-2013
Marcus Camby wore #23 on and off for over 13 seasons, although that was the number he was most synonymous with. A shot-blocking center who was a nightmare in the paint, Marcus Camby led the NBA in blocks 4 times and made the All-Defensive Teams 4 times. The 2007 Defensive Player of the Year was a force at contesting shots, blocking weak attempts at the rim, and kickstarting the fast-break for his team.
Camby became an impactful starter with the New York Knicks before blossoming into a defensive star with the Denver Nuggets. He led the NBA in blocks three straight seasons between 2006-2008 at over 3.0 BPG. He was a 6’11” lanky big man who truly enjoyed impacting the game on defense, making him the 8th greatest player to wear #23.
7. Draymond Green
Career Statistics: 8.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Years Worn: 2013-2022
A 3-time NBA champion and former Defensive Player of the Year, Draymond Green is one of the best players to wear #23 because of his defensive versatility. Despite playing with a ton of Hall of Fame talent including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson; Draymond Green was often the vocal leader of his championship teams and the defensive stalwart.
Green did not have to score a ton of points to be effective, although he could (according to Green himself) defend every position on the floor and did it at an elite level. His statistics do not leap off the page but he does the little things that help teams win games, even if his teammates were incredible offensive players. Without Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors dynasty might not have achieved the success it did in the end.
6. Mark Aguirre
Career Statistics: 20.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Years Worn: 1989-1992
A 3-time All-Star and 2-time NBA champion, Mark Aguirre was a 6’6” small forward who was an incredibly dominant scorer. The forward is one of the greatest Dallas Mavericks stars ever, putting up over 22 PPG for 6 straight seasons of which 4 of them he averaged over 25 PPG. In his third season, Aguirre averaged 29.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 4.5 APG which was his first All-Star season.
Even if Mark Aguirre won back-to-back championships as a role player with the Pistons, he was truly a great offensive player before that stint with Detroit. Aguirre’s 29.5 PPG average in his third season was the highest in Mavericks history for a regular season, which is why the small forward is a top-6 player to ever wear #23.
5. Calvin Murphy
Career Statistics: 17.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Years Worn: 1971-1983
One of the greatest players in Houston Rockets history, Calvin Murphy overcame the odds at 5’9” to dominate the guard position in the NBA. Playing his entire career with the Rockets, Murphy is a Hall of Famer because he was a one-of-a-kind little man who never backed down from any opponent. His speed, skill, shooting, and ball-handling skills were all elite which is why he dropped over 17,000 points in his career.
Murphy is also an all-time great free-throw shooter, nailing 95.8% and 92.0% over the final seasons of his career which led the league. Calvin had it all as an offensive player and rose to stardom as soon as the Rockets were relocated from San Diego to Houston after his rookie season. The former No. 18 overall pick was not supposed to be as great as he became, and he is a top-5 player who ever wore #23.
4. Lou Hudson
Career Statistics: 20.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Years Worn: 1967-1979
A 6-time All-Star and dominant shooting guard, Lou Hudson is one of the most forgotten stars who wore #23. In fact, before Michael Jordan took that number and made it famous, it was all Hudson’s. The 6’5” shooting guard had a perfect stroke from the perimeter, and would have been a dominant 3-point shooter had he played today. But most importantly, Hudson did it while wearing the #23 digits on his jersey his entire career.
Even if he made 6 All-Star Teams and averaged over 20 PPG 7 times in his career, Hudson never made the Hall of Fame. Lack of postseason success came against the shooting guard in that regard, although he did everything else at a high level. Hudson also had seasons where he averaged 26.8 PPG, 24.7 PPG, and 27.1 PPG which showcased his ability to get buckets at an elite level. Even if many might not know who he is, Lou Hudson is one of the greatest players to ever wear #23.
3. Anthony Davis
Career Statistics: 23.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.4 SPG, 2.3 BPG
Years Worn: 2013-2019
Anthony Davis might be the most talented power forward in NBA history. After all, think of what he brings to the game. The big man can score inside and outside, handles the ball well, can pass, and is a dominant defensive player. In a nutshell, Davis is a guard in a big man’s body. His impact as a double-double threat is undeniably great, even though his leadership qualities (or lack thereof) have hindered his career from taking off even more.
Davis wore #23 for his entire career up until the 2020 season, as he gave it up to a particular superstar small forward. The 6’10” big man was a dominant player for the Pelicans, averaging 23.7 PPG and 10.5 RPG during the 7 seasons he played with the franchise. Even though he never had postseason success, he was an MVP-caliber player. After getting traded to the Lakers, Davis helped the franchise win championship #17 alongside the second-greatest player to ever wear #23.
2. LeBron James
Career Statistics: 27.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Years Worn: 2004-2010, 2015-2021
LeBron James is the current player to own the #23 jersey and make it his own. The King wore #23 in his rookie season, dubbing himself “The Chosen One”. James would unsurprisingly win Rookie of the Year before taking off and becoming one of the 10 greatest stars we have ever seen. Wearing #23, James would be the greatest Cavaliers player ever (2 MVPs) before wearing #6 with the Miami Heat and winning his first NBA titles.
Returning to Cleveland, James would wear #23 again and win his 3rd championship. It seemed James would be destined to keep his #23 jersey forever but he recently reverted to #6 before this season. LeBron James has accomplished everything: 4 titles, 4 Finals MVPs, 4 MVPs, 17 All-Star Teams, 17 All-NBA Teams. He will try to win ring #5 before he retires because the only thing left for The King to accomplish is catching up with the ghost of the greatest player to ever wear #23: Michael Jordan.
1. Michael Jordan
Career Statistics: 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Years Worn: 1985-1998, 2002-2003
Unsurprisingly, Michael Jordan is the GOAT of all players that wore #23. In fact, Jordan is the GOAT regardless. No player impacted the game as Michael did, and the documentary “The Last Dance” needed to be released to inform the younger audiences of how great the former Chicago Bulls star truly was. 6 NBA championships, 6 Finals MVPs, 5 MVPs, and 10 scoring titles is just the beginning of what Jordan did as a professional basketball player.
MJ also won Defensive Player of the Year, made 14 All-Star Teams, and was a member of 9 All-Defensive Teams. Not to mention, Michael has the highest PPG average of any player and was a spectacular two-way player. Playing in a 90s era that included Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Karl Malone among others; it was Jordan who always shined the brightest and is the man who everyone remembers as the best to wear #23.