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NBA Jersey Number Rules: Positions & Numbers

Wearing the right number on your jersey is more than just a fashion statement. It’s an important part of being an NBA player that goes back to the beginning of professional basketball. You might not have been able to identify which player was on which team without it! You may learn everything about the NBA’s sizing regulations in our blog post. Together with some fascinating information about famous numbers and their past.

What Are The NBA Jersey Number Rules?

As far as the NBA jersey number rules go, there aren’t many! The numbers that players wear in the NBA are selectable by teams. The numbers you can wear during NBA games are only subject to a few limitations.

The NBA allows fifteen different digits that include everything from 0-99, as well as 00! There are no restrictions put in place regarding which digit you need to wear so long as it falls within those ranges. This includes double-digit jerseys too such as No. 12 or No. 23 if they have them available on your team’s roster.

The NBA has changed some of its jersey number rules since it started way back in 1946 when they originally had no written rule about wearing specific digits or how many were required per team. Nonetheless, Ellis College’s match against Irvington in 1892 marks the earliest known use of jerseys. who wore green for Irvington and white for Ellis as well as the numbers of their players on their backs.

NBA Jersey Number Rules

Does The NBA Allow Three-Digit Numbers?

Simply put, no! You are only permitted to use one to two digits on your NBA jerseys, according to NBA number restrictions. For NBA games, NBA players are not permitted to use numbers greater than 99.

The NBA has attempted to make changes in the past but was met with a lot of pushback by fans. Those who were used to watching their favorite players wearing specific jersey numbers especially retired jerseys.

NBA Jersey Number Change Rules

What takes place when a basketball player requests a new number? The NBA allows players to change their jersey numbers as frequently as they’d like. If the player is sporting a number that falls within the NBA’s permitted range of digits.

If you want to see your favorite NBA player with another digit on his/her back, don’t fret! Any NBA team may sign the player because the NBA permits free agency. and choose which number they will wear next. Retired jerseys have previously been brought out of retirement by active or past players who wore those particular numerals while competing in the NBA.

Michael Jordan famously changed from 23 to 45 when he came out of retirement after three years away from basketball. But there have been others too including Kobe Bryant changing his No. 24 jersey at one point during his NBA career.

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as of 09/06/2023 6:14 PM
as of 09/06/2023 6:14 PM
Last updated on 09/06/2023 6:14 PM

There is another jersey number rule that NBA players and fans need to know too: post-season rules determine how jerseys can be worn during play in the NBA Playoffs! Once a player has played on an NBA team for three years, he will have their number “unavailable”.

This means they cannot change it ahead of or during any NBA games. Such as playoffs unless there are extenuating circumstances. This was designed specifically so teams wouldn’t lose marketing power from retired numbers of former legends. Who wore those digits while playing in the NBA.

LeBron and Kobe’s Number Swaps

LeBron James started his career with the 23 for the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers but switched to #23 for his second year. He kept this number until he joined the Miami Heat where he changed from 23 to 6. He then went back to wearing his original NBA jersey number of 23 when he left Miami, joining the Cavs again.

LeBron is now wearing 6 again with the Lakers, the reason being that he initially wanted to “give the keys to the franchise” to his teammate Anthony Davis who was originally wearing number 23 back when he was still with the New Orleans Pelicans. It would have been a symbolism than Lebron is taking a “backseat” since he wanted to give his jernsey number to Davis.

Kobe Bryant is the only player in league history to have two jersey numbers retired with the same team. The star changing numbers, going from No. 8 to No. 24, midway through his career. 

In his Oscar winning short film “Dear Basketball,” Kobe reflected on how no matter what, he would always be that kid who fell in love with a game. He said No. 24 meant a lot to him, as it was part of his basketball origin story that got him to the level of skill and success he had with the Lakers. So while No. 24 was a moment to evolve for Kobe, it was also a way to go back to his basketball roots.

Bryant won three NBA championship titles as No. 8 and his final two wearing No. 24. He appeared in eight All-Star games with his first number and ten after the jersey swap. He won a scoring title in each number and scored 16,777 points repping No. 8 and 16,866 points wearing No. 24. 

Many NBA fans believed that there was a theory the the real reason why Kobe changed his number to 24 is to signify that he’s the “one better than Jordan” since when people think of jersey number 23, they immediately think Michael Jordan.

Basketball Jersey Numbers By Position

NBA Jersey Number By Position?

The positional play has nothing to do with the NBA uniform numbers. Because it is simpler for officials to distinguish them on the court, NBA teams typically have a set of players who play the same position and wear similar numbers.

The NBA does not require specific number ranges to be worn by particular positions so you’ll notice that some guards could wear No. 0-25 while others may only wear higher digits such as No. 40 or larger depending on where their jersey falls within their team’s roster organization.

There are no rules about wearing certain numbers during NBA games but there are restrictions regarding what your shirt looks like with regards to advertisements since those can’t interfere with rulebooks being read from across the court! This is why we say each player has a “jersey number” instead of simply “number” as NBA players wear jerseys with advertisements on them.

Iconic NBA Jersey Numbers

The NBA has seen some iconic jersey numbers worn by players over the decades including No. 23, 24, and 45! There are many more like them too which NBA teams pay homage to by retiring their jerseys so that current or future basketball stars will never wear those digits again in any NBA game.

Those who have played for NBA teams include Michael Jordan (23), Kobe Bryant (24) Shaquille O’Neal (34), LeBron James (23/6), Magic Johnson (32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), and many others.

Why Do NBA Teams Retire Jersey Numbers?

NBA teams also retire jersey numbers for those who have contributed significantly to a franchise whether they played on the team or not like Wilt Chamberlain (13) with Philadelphia 76ers, Bill Russell (6) with Boston Celtics, Jerry West (44) with Los Angeles Lakers, John Stockton (12) with Utah Jazz among others.

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The NBA is home to some of basketball’s greatest players ever including Shaquille O’Neal (No. 33 retired by Miami Heat), Michael Jordan (23 retired by Chicago Bulls/Washington Wizards), and Kobe Bryant (24 retired by Los Angeles Lakers). There are many more great NBA legends whose jerseys will never be worn!

Iconic Jersersy Numbers Shared By NBA Legends

Jersey NumberNBA Players
#33Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing
#32Karl Malone, Magic Johnson, Kevin McHale
#21Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dominique Wilkins
#34Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Paul Pierce, Shaquille O’Neal
#3Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul
#23Michael Jordan, Lebron James
#24Kobe Bryant, Moses Malone, Rick Barry
#6 Bill Russell, Julius Erving, Lebron James

These list of jersey numbers above are the most iconic jersey numbers. One of the sole reasons is pretty self-explanatory where every player listed is a Hall of Famer. After a few more decades, there will surely be other jersey numbers that will turn iconic due to the good number of great players currently playing in the NBA.

Is The Number 69 Illegal In The NBA?

The “uniform rule” of the NBA only forbids particular jersey advertisements that are not permitted during NBA games. The NBA does not permit any player to wear the number 69 in an NBA game because it is an insulting slang phrase, but players are free to wear whatever other numbers they choose! NBA referees will not permit the number 69 to be worn on NBA jerseys, however players may wear jersey numbers in the 70s or 80s.

Is Number 69 Jersey Illegal In NBA?


The NBA Jersey Number Rules are not difficult, but you must understand them which will help avoid any confusion or issues during your next game day experience watching basketball at home or live on TV! Get ready to cheer on your favorite team and players as if nothing changed even though their jerseys may look slightly different than they did last season…

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