While many NBA fans mainly associate newly signed Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard with the No. 12 – the same jersey number he wore during his previous one-year stint with the team and for most of his 15-year career – it appears that the veteran big man will be wearing a completely different number in the 2019-20 season. This also happens to be a number that has only been worn by a select few players in NBA history so far.
According to Bleacher Report, Shams Charania of The Athletic was first to report on Monday that Howard has cleared waivers after being bought out by the Memphis Grizzlies, thus allowing him to officially sign with the Lakers. Charania also noted in his tweet that Howard is planning to wear No. 39 for his return to Los Angeles, with Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times pointing out in a separate Twitter post that the 33-year-old center will become the first Laker in the team’s history to get this jersey number.
Per Basketball-Reference, only five players prior to Howard have worn No. 39 at any point in their NBA careers. The most recent player to don this jersey number was forward Jerami Grant, who wore it while playing for the Philadelphia 76ers in his first three seasons in the league – per Sports Illustrated, he chose this number to represent the fact that the Sixers picked him 39th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. He then switched to a more conventional jersey number – No. 9 – upon joining the Oklahoma City Thunder in the summer of 2017, though it’s unclear what number he’ll be wearing this season following his recent move to the Denver Nuggets.
Regardless of which number he wears in the 2019-20 season, Dwight Howard is expected to compete with JaVale McGee for the starting center job in Los Angeles as he replaces recent free-agent signee DeMarcus Cousins, who recently went down with a potentially season-ending ACL injury. He is coming off a 2018-19 season where he only played nine games for the Washington Wizards before he was sidelined for the rest of the year following an L4-L5 lumbar microdiscectomy.
Aside from his recent injury concerns, many have pointed out the fact that Howard will be rejoining the Lakers six years after his troubled first stint with the team ended with a first-round elimination in the 2013 playoffs. According to Bleacher Report, Howard’s decline as an NBA player arguably started during his time in the Lakers, where he failed to gel with fellow superstar Kobe Bryant as the two led the team to an underwhelming 45-37 regular-season record in 2012-13.