Carter-Williams talks about decision to not wear No. 1

  • When he played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Michael Carter-Williams wore No. 5. He'll wear No. 7 with the Bulls after initially wanted to wear No. 1, the number he wore in college at Syracuse and with the 76ers.

    When he played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Michael Carter-Williams wore No. 5. He'll wear No. 7 with the Bulls after initially wanted to wear No. 1, the number he wore in college at Syracuse and with the 76ers. Associated Press/file

Updated 10/19/2016 3:51 PM

Upon joining the Bulls Monday, Michael Carter-Williams unknowing launched a great debate.

The discussion didn't last long, but it makes for an interesting argument: Would it be disrespectful of the Bulls to let Carter-Williams wear the No. 1 jersey, which hung in Derrick Rose's locker for the past eight seasons.


After originally asking for No. 1, Carter-Williams changed his mind and decided to take No. 7. After practice Wednesday, Carter-Williams described the number drama.

First of all, his reasons for wanting No. 1 were completely reasonable. He wore that number in college at Syracuse and also in Philadelphia when he won NBA rookie of the year in 2013-14. He switched to No. 5 in Milwaukee because No. 1 was retired for Oscar Robertson.

"My mind wasn't even thinking about D-Rose and everything like that," Carter-Williams said. "I just want the city and the team and the organization all to be focused on one thing. I think the fans are a big part of this organization and I didn't want to have any distraction. I want everything to be positive.

"A number to me is not that important. If I play well or we play well or we play bad, I want them to support us instead of focusing on why is Michael wearing No. 1?"

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Carter-Williams was at the United Center for Monday's game against Charlotte, but was not in uniform because the trade with the Bucks for Tony Snell had just become official. He said he didn't personally witness a social media outcry after news spread that he planned to wear No. 1 with the Bulls.

"My family and my brothers and sisters were like, 'Man, everyone's going crazy on Twitter,' " he said. "I was like, 'Ah, man, that's not how I want to start.' It was nothing personal. To me, it's not even a big deal.

"D-Rose did a lot for this city. He was born here. He was the youngest MVP ever. He really did a lot of great things for Chicago. People love him. I respect it. Like I said, it's not a big deal to me."

So by the time Monday's game ended, Carter-Williams decided to switch to No. 7. So far, there hasn't been any noticeable outcry from fans of Toni Kukoc or Ben Gordon.


This brief drama raises an interesting question: Should anyone care if Carter-Williams wore No. 1?

Rose is obviously gone, having been traded to New York in June. At this point, it doesn't seem likely the Bulls will retire Rose's jersey. It's not out of the question, considering he won MVP in 2010-11. If it does happen, it probably wouldn't be until Rose retires as a player. Having just turned 28, that decision on Rose can be put off for a few years.

The Bulls have been very selective about retiring numbers, sticking with just four so far -- Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Jerry Sloan and Bob Love. Some people wanted Norm Van Lier's No. 2 retired, but if they did that, a good argument could be made for Kukoc, Artis Gilmore, Horace Grant, even Kirk Hinrich. The Bulls think keeping a cap on it makes the honor more special, which is how it should be when Jordan is involved.

So what's the big deal about Rose's former number? Would it be OK next season for someone to wear No. 1, or Joakim Noah's No. 13?

You could argue the Bulls giving a player No. 1 is disrespectful to Rose, but you could also argue not giving Carter-Williams a number that's special to him is disrespectful. After all, Carter-Williams is the one playing for the Bulls now.

If No. 1 was special to Carter-Williams, he should have just worn it. My son likes to wear No. 22 because it was his mother's number in college. If he made it to the NBA and was told he couldn't wear No. 22 because the guy who used to wear it was just traded away, my response would be, "Seriously?"

Rose had a nice run with the Bulls and was probably the most popular athlete in Chicago for a few years. Granted, it's an awkward situation, but it's also time to move on.

Carter-Williams is expected to make his Bulls preseason debut Thursday when the Bulls meet the Atlanta Hawks in Omaha, Neb.


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