What Are The NBA Jersey Number Rules? Full Guide

Have you ever wondered why there aren’t any NBA players wearing a number 69 jersey?

Or why certain players use specific numbers?

There can be a lot of reasons for this and there are also rules that they must follow. So, let’s quickly find out what this is all about.

What are Jersey Numbers?

In most sports including, there are numbers etched on the jerseys of players.

The numbers in jerseys are used to identify players especially when there are fouls and violations.

For instance, a foul was called on a player. The referee may signal to the scorekeeper the player who fouled using his jersey number. This also makes it easier for the scorekeeper to identify who committed the foul.

Just imagine the confusion if no player wears a number. The referees and the scorekeepers may have to guess or even ask the players who fouled.

But what about the last names on the back of the jerseys?

While most leagues also have names on the jerseys, they’re mostly there for the fans. Scorekeepers don’t have time to write down the names of the players especially if they’re long. Instead, they use their jersey numbers.

What are the NBA Jersey Number Rules?

Most basketball leagues have different rules regarding their jersey numbers. The NBA also has specific rules that players must obey.

Here are they:

  • Players can select from 0-99 as their jersey number
  • No player on a team shall have the same jersey numbers
  • Players can ask to change their jersey number during the off-season and the league will decide if it’s approved or not
  • Retired jersey numbers can’t be used anymore unless a player asks for permission
  • Unofficially, the number 69 is banned in the NBA

In basketball, jersey numbers don’t indicate the position you’re playing in. They’re mostly just for identification.

Also, although there’s no official NBA rule that prohibits the use of “69” on jerseys, the NBA once denied the request of Dennis Rodman to use that. They felt that it was too obscene especially for a popular player like him to use.

Lastly, a team may retire a jersey number in honor of that player. But a new player can always ask for permission to use that retired player. But no players usually do this since it wouldn’t be respectful.

What are the Most Common and Rare NBA Numbers?

Throughout the years, some players may change their jersey numbers while some will be loyal to theirs.

So, you might wonder, what are the most common NBA jerseys and what are the rarest ones?

So, for the 2021-22 NBA season, here are the most popular jersey digits by the number of players using them.

Jersey NumberNumber of Players Using It
831 players
527 players
3, 9, 1126 players
4, 625 players
0, 2124 players
1223 players
221 players
2020 players
10, 2219 players
14, 24, 2518 players

As we can see from the list above and the usual trend for each season is that single digit numbers are the most popular.

The most used numbers tend to be 0-50 while anything above that is rarely used.

But probably the most iconic and popular jersey number in history is #23. It was worn by some of the greatest in basketball such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis.

Why do NBA players wear different numbers in the Olympics?

Once every four years, a lot of NBA players will play in the Olympics to represent their nations.

But you may have noticed that NBA players usually won’t use their own jersey numbers in the Olympics. Is there a reason for that?

Yes, there is because as per FIBA and Team USA rules, players can only use jersey numbers starting from 4 to 15.

We don’t know the exact reason for this rule since other countries allow higher numbers. For instance, Ricky Rubio plays for Spain, and he has donned the number 79 at one time.

Why are Jersey Numbers Important in Basketball?

The official reason for basketball jersey numbers is for identification. But over the years, they’ve become more than just digits for most players.

A lot of players choose their numbers carefully as they hold significant meanings. As such, there are many reasons why players choose their numbers. They could be:

  • The player’s favorite number
  • To honor their favorite basketball player
  • As a tribute to their family
  • To represent their faith and beliefs

Most NBA players choose their numbers as a respect to someone dear to them. For instance, Stephen Curry wears #30 because that’s the number that his dad Dell Curry wore.

There’s also Gilbert Arenas who wore #0 because that’s the number of minutes that experts predicted he would play in the NBA.

Then, there are also players who just wants to have fun such as Dennis Rodman who tried to use #69 but got denied. Instead, he used the #70 when he played for Dallas Mavericks.  


Jersey numbers in basketball exist officially for identification. But for players and fans, they became symbols of greatness.

To most, jersey numbers are more than just digits. They represent different meanings and memories.

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