The NBA allows players to choose their jersey number when they join a franchise. However, a player can choose to change his jersey number while still playing for a team.
On one special occasion, the NBA allowed players to change their number to 8 or 24 as a tribute to the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant.
There are myriad reasons why a player might opt to change his jersey number while playing for the same team. The most prominent among them is the sentimental value attached to a certain number.
While NBA players are allowed to change their jersey numbers, it can only be done during the offseason and needs to be approved by the NBA. On that note, let's take a look at the top five NBA stars who used multiple jersey numbers with the same team.
#5 Gail Goodrich - LA Lakers (11, 25)
Gail Goodrich is an LA Lakers legend whose number 25 still hangs from the Staples Center rafters. However, this was not the number he wore on his LA Lakers debut.
Despite a lot of criticism and pushback, Goodrich was selected by the LA Lakers as a territorial pick in the 1965 NBA draft. He wore the number 11 in his first run with the LA Lakers because his favored number (25), was taken by Leroy Ellis.
The Phoenix Suns acquired the point guard in the 1968 expansion draft. There, his preferred number was available, which he wore to celebrate his domination of the NBA.
When he returned to the LA Lakers in 1970, the number 25 was available. He continued his domination wearing the number 25 jersey and led the Lakers to an NBA championship in 1972.
#4 Charles Barkley - Philadelphia 76ers (34, 32)
Charles Barkley was the the Philadelphia 76ers' fifth pick in the 1984 NBA draft, two places behind Michael Jordan. He was active in the NBA for 16 seasons, eight of which were spent with the 76ers.
Despite joining a star-studded team, Barkley led the team in rebounds and was the second-highest scorer in his sophomore year under the tutelage of Moses Mahone.
Barkley wore the number 34 throughout his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, except in his last season. It took reaching out to the legendary Billy Cunningham for Barkley to wear the number.
The number 32 was initially retired to honor Cunningham, but with his approval, it was given to Charles in his final run with the franchise. The decision to change his number from 34 to 32 was to honor Magic Johnson, who announced that he was HIV+ in the 1991 NBA offseason.
#3 Kobe Bryant - LA Lakers (8, 24)
Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest basketball players to grace the NBA. He was selected 13th in the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets but was immediately traded to the LA Lakers. Kobe remains one of the most decorated NBA players and played for the LA Lakers for the entire 20 years of his career.
The number 8 was what Bryant wore in his early years with the Lakers. Reports suggested that the number came from the addition of the digits of Adidas ABCD Camp, 143. However, he chose to change it before the 2006-07 NBA season.
According to Bryant, the change to 24 was to mark his personal growth and an increased maturity level. He remains the only player to have had two of his different jersey numbers retired by the same team.
#2 LeBron James - LA Lakers (23, 6)
LeBron James is the newest member of this superstar list of NBA players that have used multiple jersey numbers with the same team. James finished his first three seasons with the LA Lakers wearing 23, even though his training gear carried the number 6.
The star forward has previously attempted to give up his jersey number to Anthony Davis upon joining the franchise. But financial and production problems did not allow the plan to come to fruition.
LeBron may be using the announcement to promote his new movie, Space Jam: A New Legacy, where he wore the number 6. Alternatively, he may want to remind himself of his glory days with the Miami Heat where he dominated the NBA.
James will start the 2021-22 NBA season wearing number 6, which will finally match his training kit and his Team USA jersey.
#1 Michael Jordan - Chicago Bulls (23, 45,12 once)
Michael Jordan is regarded as the greatest NBA player by many, while others believe that that title is deserved more by LeBron James. However, there is no doubt that Jordan is responsible for making the NBA a truly global sensation.
Jordan was selected as the third overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls and delivered six championships to the franchise in his 13-year run. He started his career with the famed number 23 and used it for the first nine years.
After returning from his baseball break, Jordan wore the number 45, which was the number he wore in high school and during his short baseball career. Although the number 23 was retired at the time, the guard could have worn it if he wanted. But he chose to stick to 45 to mark a new beginning, seeing as his dad was not there to watch him anymore.
Jordan switched back to 23 after the Orlando Magic defeated the Bulls in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and a teammate suggested that number 45 did not play like 23. The Bulls and Jordan were fined by the NBA for the impromptu number change.
Although this was not intentional, Jordan wore a nameless number 12 on February 14, 1990, after his original jersey went missing at the Orlando Magic arena.