Tip-Off Timer: Most Popular Jersey Number? Surprisingly, 12
You would think that a decade into the post-Jordan world, the ubiquitous No. 23 might have become the NBA's most popular jersey number of all time. While the number is popular, it's not the most popular. Nor is No. 1, long worn by self-professed top-notch players (some of which ended up looking deluded).
The most popular jersey number in NBA history is actually No. 12, which some 327 players have worn for at least one NBA season.
Sounds odd, right? No. 12 doesn't have one of those showstopping stars attached to it like 23 or 32. The best players to ever wear No. 12 are Maurice Stokes and John Stockton. But clearly, not many contemporary players would be wearing No. 12 because of those who came before. There aren't many rappers dropping George Yardly references, you know?
Dwight Howard is today's No. 12 champion. In fact, his nickname is D-12. Will Bynum, Chris Andersen, LaMarcus Aldridge, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Al Thornton are among the other players who wear the number currently. It's not a particularly star-studded line (just like the historical No. 12 roster) but it's pretty vast. It'll be interesting to see wheter a more glamorous number like No. 23 ever catches up. Without the data to back it up, I would imagine 23 became more popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s as players who grew up watching MJ came of age and entered the league. Perhaps not -- 18 NBA players wore No. 12 last season, while only 10 wore No. 23.
(By the way, Basketball-Reference's jersey number database is a great way to kill a few hours.)