It’s typical in the NBA, and really the sports world, to have “your number.” Tom Brady will always be No. 12. Lionel Messi will always be No. 10. Ichiro Suzuki will always be No. 51. Jordan No. 23.
For Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, he sported No. 15 from his days at Syracuse to his first seven years in the league with Denver.
That is until Melo was traded to the New York Knicks. The No. 15 was retired for Earl Monroe and Dick McGuire.
Melo joined the Knicks on February 22, 2011 and when he arrived, knowing he couldn't have No. 15, he set his sights on the No. 22. Anthony wore No. 22 during his high school years in Baltimore and at Oak Hill Academy. But he couldn't have that, either.
The Kicks retired that number for Dave DeBusschere.
So, the next number he settled on was No. 7. Why?
According an ESPN article, the first reason Anthony chose No.7 is that his son Kiyan's birthday is March 7. Also, 22 minus 15 equals seven. Simple math.
Enter Kelenna Azubuike.
Azubuike, now the color analyst for the Golden State Warriors TV broadcast, wore No. 7 for the Knicks at the time Melo joined the Knicks. Azubuike joined the Knicks after being traded to New York on July 9, 2010 along with Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and a future second-round pick in a sign and trade deal for David Lee.
According to Azubuike, Anthony offered to pay him for the right to wear No.7.
In this day in age, if you want something, you got to pay for it. In Azubuike’s mind, he was willing to exchange the jersey number for a price. A steep price, seeing as Melo’s previous contract in Denver was roughly worth $57 million.
I’ve seen people pay people for jersey numbers, 50, 100 thousand, I’m thinking 20 racks minimum. And my boys are hyping me up and I walk in the next day and he had a check for 3,000 dollars. -- Azubuike
Melo had paid Azubuike 0.00005% (3,000 of 57M) of his career earnings to that point.
Imagine expecting a check in your name for at least $20,000 dollars and seeing $17,000 less. But, Azubuike was too afraid to approach Melo for more money.
"3 grand, that's it?" 😂— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) December 19, 2019
Kelenna tells the story of Melo buying his jersey off him on the Knicks pic.twitter.com/mVUEl6LATm
When Melo joined the Blazers back in November, Portland did not make No. 7 available to him. While the number has not been officially retired by the team, no player has been allowed to wear it since Brandon Roy retired.
Also to note, when Kent Bazemore was traded to Portland ahead of this 2019-20 season, Anfernee Simons gave up his jersey No. 24 for nothing. Well, Bazemore “will take care of him for that.” Simons now wears No. 1.
You can buy a lot of things for $3,000: 3,000 items at the Dollar Tree, a nice mattress, a cheap car… but a jersey number? That is priceless.