P.J. Dozier, an undrafted rookie who signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder yesterday and will be wearing the No. 35 jersey for as long as he is with the team, told reporters that his choice in jersey number had nothing to do with Kevin Durant, who wore No. 35 for nine years in Oklahoma City before leaving.
Dozier picking the jersey number is less notable than the Thunder allowing him to have it. As ESPN’s Royce Young notes, the team has previously been unwilling to allow new players to wear the same number as recently departed stars:
But there is precedent in OKC of the team denying a number request. After Dion Waiters was traded to the Thunder in 2015, his preferred No. 3 was already taken, so he requested No. 13. The Thunder told him to pick again; that was James Harden’s old number there.
“They didn’t want me to wear 13,” Waiters said then. “Guess they wanted me to have my own identity.”
The Thunder later acknowledged it was an internal miscommunication that led to Waiters being denied the number.
Maybe the team didn’t give any thought to assigning Dozier’s number, or maybe they saw a chance to be petty and greedily took it. I’m hoping the latter is true, because that is a great way to exercise some spite.