Basketball, like most sports, is a game obsessed with numbers. In addition to traditional stats like FG%, FT%, PPG, RPG, and APG, there are ratios for AST/TO and STL/TO, and the more recently introduced metrics for scoring and shooting efficiency.
However, there’s another number that is a primary consideration for players themselves — namely which one to wear on their uniform.
Selecting a uniform number can become problematic for one of two reasons: either a current player on the team is already wearing the desired number, or certain numbers may have been retired in honor of the contribution made by past players to the franchise. For the Cleveland Cavalier’s latest signee Kevin Love, it was the latter issue that kept him from staying with the No. 42 he’s had since high school.
The Cavs retired Nate Thurmond’s No. 42 after he played just two seasons with the franchise at the end of his career. (Interestingly, Thurmond — a seven-time All-Star and the first NBA player to record a quadruple double in a game — finished his career averaging exactly 15.0 points and rebounds per game.)
Although Thurmond intimated in an interview that he would be open to Love wearing his former number, the newest Cavalier opted to return to his Oregonian roots.
WHEN A NUMBER’S NOT A NUMBER
Love chose to return to the first number he ever wore as a basketball player — the zero assigned to him at a when he was the last guy to the gym for a youth tournament in Beaverton, Oregon. While zero in tennis is called love, it was a different bit of cleverness that convinced Love to come full circle in his selection.
— NBA (@NBA) August 26, 2014
Love saw zero as appropriate not as the number, but for the letter it resembles: it’s the “O” for his home state of Oregon, and, as he was reminded by Cavs GM David Griffen, it’s the “O” for Ohio — his new home. At least, this is the official account given for his decision… one can’t help but wonder if a certain infamous salesman known as Lefty may have held subliminal sway.