Shawn Kemp

Celtics rookie Grant Williams picks jersey number 40... for now

Celtics rookie Grant Williams picks jersey number 40... for now

BOSTON -- Forget about navigating the Turnpike or nailing the correct pronunciation of towns in Massachusetts like Peabody (It’s Pea-buh-dee, not Pea-Body). 

The biggest hurdle newcomers to the Boston Celtics face when they get here… finding a number that hasn’t been retired

Well, Celtics newcomer Grant Williams went with a Green Teamer — sort of — in choosing the jersey number 40. 

And no, it was not Williams paying homage to Dino Radja, Tony Battie, Joseph Forte or any of the previous players to don the No. 40 jersey for the Celtics. 

Instead, he picked number 40 because of six-time All-Star of Seattle Supersonics fame, Shawn Kemp.

“That’s kind of good; you can do worse than Shawn Kemp,” Williams said during an episode of NBC Sports Boston’s CelticsTalk Podcast. “It was between Shawn and Dirk.”

Williams has been around long enough to know how iconic jersey No. 41 will be. That's a number that will forever be linked with Dirk Nowitzki, who announced his retirement after this past season — his 21st in the NBA, all with the Dallas Mavericks, which is an NBA record for one player being with the same team. 

The 6-foot-7 Williams would love to have the jersey number 2 which he wore in high school as well as at Tennessee. 

But that number was retired in honor of the legendary Red Auerbach. 

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Jersey No. 22 would have made sense, not only because of Williams’ connection with the number 2, but also because that’s where the Celtics selected him in the first round of Thursday night’s draft. 

But Williams soon discovered that number has also been retired, done so in honor of Ed Macauley. 

So after looking at players both in the present and in the past, Williams eventually picked Kemp’s No. 40 because, "it’s a number I can see on myself.”

But you might want to hold off on buying that Williams No. 40 jersey for a minute. 

Williams makes no guarantees that he’ll stick with the No. 40 going into the season. 

“We’ll be able to see what other numbers there are after summer league, after free agency,” Williams said. “Rookies, we get the last pick. But 40 is what I have right now.”

Remember, he has worn number 2 since high school.

Typically when players have to switch numbers, they do so by going with a number that’s similar in some fashion to their preferred number. 

So don’t be surprised if once the season gets here or we get past free agency, Williams is donning a No. 11 or No. 12 jersey that was worn last season by Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier, respectively.

At least one of them (Irving most likely) will be gone next season. And while Boston can match any offer for Rozier, who becomes a restricted free agent after Boston’s qualifying offer, there’s no telling just how committed Boston is to bring him back. 

Those issues will work themselves out.

Meanwhile, Williams will do what most rookies do and that’s wait for his number to be called or in this instance, become available. 

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