The next time Paul George steps on an NBA court, he'll be wearing a new number.
The Pacers star forward, who suffered a compound fracture to his right leg during a scrimmage at Team USA camp in Las Vegas, will be changing his digits from 24 to 13. ESPN's Darren Rovell confirmed that George applied for and was granted the right to switch numbers. The deadline to apply was the first week in March.
George has been dropping hints about the number change for weeks. On Twitter he's been using the word "trece," which is Spanish for 13:
— Paul George (@Paul_George24) July 24, 2014
Got something in store for y'all in a couple weeks Indy!
— Paul George (@Paul_George24) July 23, 2014
— Paul George (@Paul_George24) August 5, 2014
— Brent Drinkut (@BrentDrinkut) July 25, 2014
The idea for the number change may have come from the popular sportswriter Bill Simmons. In a Grantland column published in May 2013, Simmons suggested George consider the change in part because it would lead to a catchy nickname: PG-13:
"By the way, I have some advice that will help Paul George become a household name. He should change his number immediately from no. 24 to no. 13. Here's why … can you think of anyone being helped by a nickname more than Paul George suddenly becoming “PG-13?” Uh-oh, PG-13 is heating up! Warning, this game contains strong language, violence and a possible heat check! We might have to make this performance rated “R” -- it’s too hot to handle!"
Asked about the idea on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in January, George said, "That's not bad, that's got a ring to it."
Rovell writes that the NBA requires a player who changes numbers but remains on the same team to buy all of his old jerseys from the marketplace. And while George doesn't have to do that because he filed his change request on time, he's purchasing all of his old jerseys anyway. George, whose five-year, $90 million extension kicks in at the start of the 2014-2015 season, is known for his generosity. Last year he bought and distributed every single ticket to his alma mater Fresno State's home opener against Cal State Northridge.
George is one of several of the league's top players to change numbers during his career. LeBron James began his career as No. 23 but switched to No. 6 when he signed with Miami. Now that he's coming back to Cleveland, James will again wear No. 23.
Michael Jordan briefly wore No. 45 during his return to the Chicago Bulls because his old number, 23, had been retired. But he eventually switched back to No. 23.
Kobe Bryant wore No. 8 early in his career but switched to No. 24 in 2006. George grew up outside Los Angeles and wore No. 24 out of respect for Bryant.