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When Ben Simmons makes his debut for the Brooklyn Nets, there will be something markedly different. Besides the dramatic color shift from the red-white-and-blue of the Philadelphia 76ers to the minimalist black-and-white of the Nets, he’ll also be donning a different number. But why is Simmons switching from No. 25 to No. 10?

It’s not the first uniform number change for Simmons, who wore No. 22 and No. 20 while at Florida’s Montverde Academy. During his one season at LSU in 2015–16, he put on more familiar digits.

Ben Simmons wore No. 25 at LSU and for the 76ers

As a freshman at LSU, Ben Simmons earned second-team All-America honors after averaging 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals in 34.9 minutes per game.

Rated the top prospect in his recruiting class, Simmons declared for the NBA draft after his obligatory gap year between high school and the pros.

The still-processing 76ers selected the Australian with the first overall pick in 2016 and assigned him No. 25. That made Simmons the 21st player in franchise history to wear the number and the first since Elliot Williams in 2013–14. The most notable No. 25 in 76ers history is Hall of Famer Chet Walker, who wore it for the 76ers and their predecessors, the Syracuse Nationals, from 1962–69.

In four seasons with Philadelphia, Simmons made three All-Star games, two All-Defensive squads, and was an All-NBA selection in 2019–20. He also was Rookie of the Year in 2017–18 after missing the 2016–17 season due to a broken foot.

But after the blockbuster trade that sent Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks to the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden and Paul Millsap, the 6-foot-11 left-hander discovered he had to make a change.

Brooklyn Nets retired No. 25 decades ago

When he finally takes the court for the Brooklyn Nets, Ben Simmons won't be wearing his familiar No. 25 jersey.
When he finally takes the court for the Brooklyn Nets, Ben Simmons won’t be wearing his familiar No. 25 jersey. | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Only two players wore No. 25 for the Brooklyn Nets franchise. But the number never appeared in an NBA game for the team.

The first No. 25 was Tony Jackson, a Brooklyn native who was a two-time All-American at St. John’s in the early 1960s. He was among many Brooklyn players — Connie Hawkins, Doug Moe, and Roger Brown included — who the NBA banned because of their alleged contacts with gamblers while they were collegiate players, according to Joe Goldstein for ESPN.

Jackson was part of the original New Jersey Americans at the launch of the American Basketball Association in 1967 and was an All-Star that season. He switched numbers the following season.

In 1969, the renamed New York Nets signed former 76ers guard Bill Melchionni. The first in a long line of All-Star point guards for the franchise, Melchionni played seven seasons with the Nets. The three-time All-Star was an All-ABA pick in 1971–72, led the league in assists twice, and played for two championship teams.

After the 1975–76 season, he retired and moved into the front office. While his No. 25 wasn’t retired until later, the Nets never reissued it.

It is one of six numbers retired by the team, including Dražen Petrović (No. 3), Jason Kidd (No. 5), John Williamson (No. 23), Julius Erving (No. 32), and Buck Williams (No. 52).

Thus, Ben Simmons needed to choose a different number for his new jersey with the Nets (instead of the New Jersey Nets).

Something new for Ben Simmons as he joins the Brooklyn Nets

While Ben Simmons likely won’t play until at least after the All-Star break, the team tweeted on Feb. 11 that the point forward will wear No. 10 when he debuts.

Simmons joins a not-very-exclusive club for the Brooklyn Nets franchise. He will be the 31st player to wear No. 10 for the team, the most of any set of digits in organization history.

Heck, the former 76er isn’t even the first player to wear No. 10 for the Nets this season. James Ennis III played his entire 14-minute career with Brooklyn in that jersey during a two-game stint in December on a hardship 10-day contract.

The Nets issued the number three times in 1968–69, and twice each in 1969–70 and 2019–20.

No. 10 does have some Hall of Fame mojo; Maurice Cheeks wore his familiar number during his brief stay with the Nets in 1992–93, his final NBA season. Other notable No. 10s include Otis Birdsong and Sam Cassell.

Interestingly, the other two players acquired with Simmons also changed numbers. Curry will wear No. 30 after wearing No. 31 in Philadelphia, while Drummond was assigned No. 4 (Bruce Brown has the No. 1 the big man had with the Sixers).

After an acrimonious exit from Philadelphia, coming to the Brooklyn Nets represents a new start for Ben Simmons. It’s appropriate then that start comes with a new look for his jersey.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.


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