How much is a jersey number on a team worth? Well, that varies from player to player, and Kelenna Azubuike, former New York Knick, realized this the hard way when Carmelo Anthony joined his then team and wanted to take the No. 7 off his back. Azubuike had his sights set on a large sum of cash for the gift of a number, but was let down when the check was finally in his hands.
During the Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors game Azubuike told the story of how Melo snatched his number for a discounted price.
Azubuike set the scene saying, “So he wanted No. 7 and so Donnie Walsh, who was the GM at the time, calls me into his office and he’s like, ‘Carmelo’s telling us he wants your number.'”
He was not just about to hand over then number right then and there and said, “Well he’s gonna have to give me something, he’s gotta pay me something, right?”
Walsh told them to work it out themselves.
“So Carmelo comes in there,” Azubuike continues, “I’m like ‘Bro, let me hold something… I know you’re paid.'”
Azubuike says he didn’t even have the chance to shoutout a number before the next No. 7 said, “I got you, don’t worry about it.”
With high hopes of taking in “at least 20 racks,” Azubuike thought about all those players who paid $50-100,000 for a jersey number swap and was looking forward to a nice payday courtesy of his new teammate.
His friends were hyping him up, talking about Anthony’s contract and how much he was about to get for the number, but it did not exactly play out how they had hoped.
“I walk in the next day and he hands me a check for $3,000, I’m like come on,” Azubuike says.
Azubuike said the problem was that he had no leverage with the team. He was not a star, he was injured and was not even playing, and said Anthony knew “He had all the power.”
“I blame my boys for the high expectations,” he joked.
Anthony got the number without even putting a dent in his bank account Azubuike got was a few thousand and a funny story to tell during broadcasts.
Melo was unable to wear No. 7 with the Trail Blazers because it is out of circulation for Brandon Roy, and his previous number 15, is retired by the franchise for Larry Steele, who was on the 1977 NBA championship team. Anthon now wears 00 for very specific reasons.