Choosing a jersey number for many professional athletes is an important point in developing their identity in a new chapter of their life. Many prefer to keep their collegiate number for comfort as a sign of continuation, and sometimes it will extend as far as those individuals compensating teammates in considerable amounts for their number.
There are numbers associated with athletes that will be forever be correlated to their identity. Michael Jordan and #23 will forever be iconic, and the same for Wayne Gretzky‘s #99. While there is nothing magical about a favorite number, a placebo effect can occur prompting athletes to think there is more value to a number than meets the eye.
Skylar Mays signed a two-way contract, which means he will split time between the Hawks and their NBA G League affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks. Chase wrote a great piece going in-depth about what Mays’ mental and physical abilities will provide on-the-court for the Hawks.
Like Chase, I am an alumnus of LSU and watched Skylar Mays play all four years. Moreover, I can attest to the reports of Mays being an intelligent and high character individual. I had classes with him, I went out to bars “with” him, and there was never a time he did not carry himself with the utmost respect, decency, and humility. He treated everyone equally and remained remarkably approachable even after his stardom took over the campus. I can not say more about what a great person Mays is, other than the purpose of this article as to why he wears #4.
I do not have a personal relationship with Skylar Mays, nor was this reasoning from an interview with him. It is purely an opinion piece.
Skylar Mays wore #4 all four years at LSU. Wayde Sims wore jersey #44 with the Tigers. The two Baton Rouge natives had an inseparable bond on and off the basketball court dating back to before their teenage years. Sims always wore #44 and Mays always wore #4 — outside of a couple of AAU teams. Both graduated high school from University Lab on LSU’s campus, and both committed to their hometown university to play basketball together. It was not even a question of what numbers they would choose, #44 and #4.
I remember the eerie feeling on campus when news struck that Wayde Sims had been involved in a dispute that turned fatal during a party at a fraternity near Southern University’s campus. Days before the pair were set to practice for the first time in their junior year. The entire university was reeling, and Skylar Mays was left to help with an entire state’s grief. Andrew Lopez did a great job bringing their relationship to the front lines in an article for ESPN. In which, he had a heart-wrenching quote from Sims’ mother.
“It was always Wayde and Skylar,” said Sims’ mother, Fay. “Like, you didn’t see Skylar without Wayde or Wayde without Skylar. I know I felt like Skylar was one of my own, and I still do now.”
Mays never faltered. Mays served as the pallbearer at the funeral. He gave an 11-minute speech in Sims’ honor at an on-campus vigil outside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in front of a crowd of hundreds. I was one of those people who wanted to show Sims’ family and Mays that they had our support and love. The entire 2018-2019 season was played in honor of Wayde Sims, and Mays even wore customized Nikes during the 2019 SEC Tournament in honor of Sims.
Although Skylar Mays was a fan favorite among Tiger fans, there were never really any expectations for him to be drafted by an NBA team. I mean, Mays was well on his way into any medical school he wanted, so why worry about the league. LSU Men’s Basketball Coach Will Wade spoke to the turning point in Mays as a prospect. (via same ESPN article)
“Sky was always such a hard, diligent worker in everything that he did,” LSU coach Will Wade said of Mays, who maintained a 4.01 GPA while majoring in kinesiology with a pre-med focus. “But I do think [Sims’ death] gave him a little bit more sense of purpose because he wasn’t just doing it for himself; he’s doing it for others, as well.”
“That made me more locked in on my job,” Mays said of losing Sims. “I just wanted to emulate his ways.”
Now, after being drafted by Atlanta with the 60th pick, Mays will once again wear #4 and carry on his best friend’s legacy. From Mays’ Instagram, he can be seen paying tribute to Sims as he holds up four fingers on both hands signifying the number ’44’.
Skylar, if you end up reading this, just know from one Tiger to another: Thank you and good luck.
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