Wizards

Westbrook said Wizards would have given him Gilbert Arenas' No. 0

Wizards

No one has worn the No. 0 jersey for the Washington Wizards since Gilbert Arenas, who popularized the number not only in Washington but around the basketball world with his electric, yet brief run as one of the best scorers in the NBA.

Since 2010, when Arenas switched to No. 9, the Wizards have told players who have asked that they can't wear it. And since it has never been a public declaration, there was a mystery as to why.

Was it because Arenas was one of the best players the franchise has seen in decades, that it was unofficially retired? Or, was it because his tenure remains a sore subject due to how it ended and the controversies he has created in the years since?

Well, it turns out it's not technically off-limits, as newly acquired point guard Russell Westbrook says he was given the option before choosing to wear No. 4 instead. NBC Sports Washington has heard from players in the past who said they were turned down, but those were fringe roster guys. This is a former MVP we're talking about.

"I had the opportunity to get ‘0.’ I had the opportunity to pick what number I wanted," Westbrook said Saturday at his introductory press conference. 

"I could have stayed with ‘0’ if I wanted to, but I just decided to [change it]. It was kind of the first time in my career I could go back to my original number."

 

Westbrook wore No. 0 at UCLA in his college days, then with the Thunder for 11 seasons and then in Houston last year with the Rockets for his lone year there. It turns out he wanted to wear No. 4 all along, he just didn't have the chance to.

At UCLA, Aaron Afflalo already laid claim to No. 0. In OKC it was Nick Collison and in Houston it was former Wizards forward Danuel House.

When he came to Washington, Westbrook looked at the roster and was delighted to see no one was wearing the number made famous in town by Chris Webber and Antawn Jamison.

"Four is my favorite number. For me [it] reminds me of who I play and who I play for and that’s my family. My wife, my kids, my mom, my dad, my brother; it reminds me and it gives me a sense of my roots and where I started from, where I get it from," Westbrook explained.

"That’s all I can remember and it’s something that allows me to get back to why I love the game, why I fell in love with the game, why I play the game, who I play it for. I’m just happy to be able to have that number back."

So, that solves it. Arenas is not a permanent roadblock towards someone wearing the No. 0 for the Wizards again someday. They just probably have to be an established star.