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Why No. 499 drives Warriors’ guard Kent Bazemore

Oct 10, 2013, 1:20 PM PDT

Numbers do lie. Just ask Golden State Warriors’ guard Kent Bazemore.

Prior to the 2012 season, the undrafted hoopster out of Old Dominion was ranked by ESPN as the second-worst player in the entire NBA — No. 499 out of 500.

His teammates joked there were dead people on the list that ranked higher than him.

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Courtesy @CJZero on Twitter / NBA TV

What did Bazemore do? He wore it like a badge of honor, stitching “499” into the tongue of his shoes so that it could motivate him daily.

“I started somewhere and that’s the most humbling thing for me,” Bazemore said at Warriors Media Day. “To be ranked 499 out of 500 players… I embrace it.”

Last season, Bazemore’s lasting impression may have been his exuberant celebrations from the bench, but he is proving he can be effective on the court as well. He averaged 18.4 points in the NBA Summer League and was a team captain. The monster dunk he threw down on Mavericks’ big man Jackie Carmichael went viral as the Warriors finished the Summer League 7-0.

Now, Bazemore’s stock is starting to rise. He was ranked No. 332 on the same list this year.

“I think it was the largest jump ever, 167 spots,” Bazemore said with a smile. “I don’t think anyone has done that.”

He’s not getting rid of 499, though. He’s keeping it on his kicks. It’s a reminder of where he started. He also plans to continue the wild celebrations that led to the term “Bazemoring.”

“Anything you do as a team is great, that makes you want to play better,” Bazemore said. “When Steph (Curry) shoots a three and I jump up, I’m sure he wants to hit another three to see me jump up again.”

Bazemore likens the Warriors’ celebrations to that of the Oakland Athletics and their home run tunnel. He is a self-described big A’s fan. His grandfather was a Yankees fan, so he initially had to root for the Bronx Bombers by default. He has since shed the pinstripes. Bazemore recently forged a bond with A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson. The neighboring professionals both share the same jersey number.

“Me and Josh tweeted back and forth and exchanged phone numbers,” Bazemore said. “Twenty is a beautiful number. It’s my first year wearing it and it means a lot more now. I was 24, but Mr. Barry has that up on the wall. A little part of me died when I saw that.”

He says a walk-off home run is more impressive than a buzzer-beater, so maybe it won’t be too hard for him to sink a few game-winning shot to continue to vault up the ranks.

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