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DunkOrThree > Your Basketball Blog > Why is 69 Banned in the NBA?

Why is 69 Banned in the NBA?

Publish Date: 14.05.2024
Fact checked by: Emily Carter

The NBA, like all professional sports leagues, cares about its image. It strives to put out a good product, and a part of that is limiting distractions that take away from the game. They do a lot on that front, but one of the most unusual is not allowing the number 69.

The NBA is pretty strict about what players can wear during a game, not just in terms of clothing but for numbers as well. The league doesn’t allow three digit jersey numbers or the number 6. Athletes also cannot wear any two digit numbers that start with zero (01, 02, etc.).

Though 69 is not explicitly banned in the league, and there’s no written rule saying players can’t wear it, it’s not something the NBA will issue. That’s because it refers to a sexual position, and that connotation is not something the league wants to have at their games.

69

The Significance of Number 69

Out of all the numbers between 1 and 99, 69 is the only one that might distract fans and take away from the viewing experience. When asking “why is 69 banned in the NBA” the answer is because the two digits have a strong sexual connotation and refer to a lewd act.

That’s problematic because the number could become extremely infamous if ever worn, which would then push it to the forefront of the media. Doing so would then associate the league with the number and the two would be linked for an extended period of time.

Even if someone is not aware of such connections, they could easily become aware of it through fans or social media posts. That may then lead to the question about why the number 69 is banned in the NBA, which the organization would then have to answer.

The league holds a strong family-friendly image. They also have plenty of young fans. Allowing players to wear 69 could threaten that and would bring about a level of unprofessionalism that directly goes against everything the NBA preaches.

The NBA’s Stance on Jersey Numbers

The above reasons are why the NBA won’t allow its players to wear 69. However, the digits are not outright banned. That’s because placing a ban on the number would then bring attention to it, which is what the league wants to avoid in any way that they can.

Publicly, the number 69 is not banned in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some jersey restrictions. The biggest is that players cannot wear three digit numbers. The NBA standardized their jerseys many years ago, only allowing one and two digits on the back.

Cutting back on three digit numbers makes the jerseys easier to read, players easier to follow, and also limits the sheer amount of different uniforms that franchises would need to make year in and year out.

Beyond that, the league has a hard ban on any two digit numbers that start with zero. That’s because it would lead to confusion if someone had a number 01 or 02, as that is functionally the same as 1 or 2. Double zero has a similar ban, due to being caught in the crossfire.

The only other number the league has explicitly forbidden players from wearing is the number 6. That’s a recent addition, and it’s in place to honor the late Bill Russell. The center is one of the most iconic players of all time, and he only wore the number 6 during his career.

After his death the NBA decided to respect his legacy by permanently retiring his number. No one is allowed to wear it, and they will not give it out to anyone moving forward.

Instances and Attempts at Using Number 69

The number 69 has never been worn at any point in the NBA’s extended history. There may have been multiple times where a player has tried to wear the number and been turned down, but the only known event happened with Dennis Rodman.

The eccentric power forward, known for his various antics and loud personality, had a long and successful career. Most of that time occurred with the Bulls and Pistons, but he did head over to the Mavericks during the tailend of his time in the league.

That move didn’t work out, mainly due to Rodman’s age and a weak supporting cast, but he did enter NBA history by trying to wear the number 69. Before the season started, he requested the number 69 and planned to suit up with it.

However, true to the unspoken rule, the NBA shut Rodman down. Though the Mavericks had a few jerseys made before the forward came to the team, commissioner David Stern didn’t approve of the number choice and made him switch to the number 70.

He never wore 69 on the court, and only played with 70 during his time in Dallas. Even so, rumor is that owner Mark Cuban still has one of the 69 jerseys up in his office. It’s a piece of history and something that will likely never come about again.

Public and Player Reactions

For the most part, the NBA has a strict and well-regulated uniform policy. They only allow players to donn specific garb, and don’t like it when anyone breaks from the norm. The number 69 being banned in the NBA is part of that.

A lot of media members and athletes don’t enjoy such restrictions, saying that the NBA has gone too far in what they do and don’t allow during a game. They aren’t specifically talking about jersey numbers, but those come up in the debate every now and then too.

Though the restriction on 69 could fall into that, almost everyone agrees that the number should stay banned. Not allowing it helps keep the NBA family-friendly and also does a good job of ensuring that the sport keeps its focus.

It’s a necessary boundary that needs to exist in the current game. While many fans would post or discuss the use of the number, that is one distraction the league doesn’t want to deal with or have to publicly acknowledge.

It’s better to ignore the entire debacle completely and let fans wonder why the number 69 is banned than have to get into a rather awkward public conversation. It also avoids a large PR problem, and everyone agrees that’s for the best.

Conclusion

The NBA doesn’t have too many hard restrictions, but the one surrounding 69 is in place for good reason. The sexual connotations are too much for what the league tries to achieve and would distract from its clean, fun image.

Jersey numbers are a big part of sports. They tie into player identities, help connect them with fans, and allow them to build a brand. Having one with additional meaning beyond the person wearing it would distract from that message.

That being said, not everyone agrees and believes all numbers should be allowed. Do you think the fact that 69 is banned in the NBA is a good or bad thing? Why or why not?

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