When Ben McLemore selected the No. 16 last summer, he had no idea about the history behind it. The 21-year-old rookie had no idea that No. 16 was once worn by the great Peja Stojakovic.
McLemore has had to field plenty of questions from fans and media about why he chose the No. 16. He’s had to explain numerous times that the number is a metaphor honoring his mother and her six children.
“It’s a blessing just to wear a great player’s number that did great things in this city,” McLemore told Cowbell Kingdom of Stojakovic and his jersey No. 16.
A blessing, yes, but according to a source within McLemore’s camp, the rookie guard has formally asked the Kings to swap numbers for the 2014-15 season. With the No. 23 open now that Marcus Thornton is with the Brooklyn Nets, McLemore has called dibs on his old high school and college number.
“He deserves for that jersey to be retired for all the things he did with that 16,” McLemore told Cowbell Kingdom. “He was great. I’ve just tried to do the best I can in that jersey and tried to represent it the best I can.”
The Kings have yet to grant the swap, nor have they moved forward with retiring Stojakovic’s number.
With Stojakovic in town this weekend, McLemore’s timing couldn’t be better. Now enjoying retirement, the 36-year-old Stojakovic received a standing ovation from his courtside seat next to owner Vivek Ranadivé on Sunday. Was the fan reaction enough to sway Ranadivé into planning a retirement ceremony?
“It would be an unbelievable honor,” Stojakovic told Cowbell Kingdom of the idea of having his number raised to the rafters. “Unbelievable. Just when you said that, I got goose bumps. When I was a kid, my dream was to play in the NBA. I never thought that I would be a good player. I never thought I was going to be an All-Star. I never thought I would be in the playoffs. Each and every year, for me, was special. I was always trying to achieve somethings more. It would definitely be an amazing honor.
“I don’t know what to say,” Stojakovic added. “If it happens, it will be amazing. If not, it was still an amazing eight years I spent here. The memories that I carry with me are amazing and I can only say good things about my time here.”
During his eight seasons in Sacramento, Stojakovic averaged 18.3 points per game on 46 percent shooting. In his final game in a Kings uniform, he surpassed Mitch Richmond for the most games played in the Sacramento era with 518 total games.
Hoisting a player’s number to the rafters is not an easy decision, but it’s hard not to look back at the Kings’ glory years without remembering Stojakovic’s incredible contributions.