As we all count the number of days we are forced to live without sports, among other things (I guess) we have decided to do a bit of number counting of our own. Just a bit more entertaining. Who are the greatest athletes to ever wear any given number. We will start with numbers 0-10 and continue by 10’s until we have exhausted the gambit of numbers. Hopefully by then we will have some live sports to discuss. Until then, let the numbers game begin!
NUMBER 0 or 00: Not a popular number in most sports (although I am surprised it isn’t more popular among goalies) this is clearly dominated by the NBA. There is actually quite a list of current players who wear this number including Carmello Anthony, Kevin Love, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. For me though, this number is synonymous with Boston Celtics of the 1980’s and Robert Parrish. Drafted in the 1st round (8th overall) of the 1976 draft by Golden State, The Chief would play 21 NBA season. He was the big man in the middle for those great Celtics team and he helped them to 3 NBA titles (he won a 4th with Chicago in 1997). He is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and has his number 00 was retired and hangs from the rafters in Boston. Nuff said.
Ottertheoracle says: 0? is that really a number? Obviously I would choose Russ Westbrook. He is a superstar and without his sidekick KD he has proven himself as one of the best.
NUMBER 1 This one was tough for me and this will, no doubt, be a controversial pick, but I have chosen Warren Moon. I am from Canada and my 1st memories of CFL football as a wee boy was the Edmonton Eskimos and Warren Moon (along with Tom Wilkinson) dominating. 5 Grey Cups and 2 MVPs in 6 seasons (1978-1982). He entered the NFL in 1984. Despite missing 6 years in the CFL Moon is still 11th all-time in the NFL in Passing Yards (49,325), and 14th in Passing Touchdowns (291). The right pick is probably Oscar Robertson (sorry Big O) or maybe even Ozzie Smith (apologies to the Wizard of Oz), but this is a personal pick from nostalgia and one of the greats.
Ottertheoracle says: Moon? Number one will always call for a goalie. Buffon is high on my list but my vote goes to oldie but goodie, Peter Schmeichel. He won everything with United. He held his own in a fight and even scored goals!
Number 2 I’m a hockey fan first (Canadian, eh!) and would love to drop Al Macinnis, and I probably would over other notables like Moses Malone, Kevin Garnett and the main man who brought the NBA championship to #wethenorth and the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard. But the power of the New York Yankees is strong in this first 10, and I couldn’t displace Derek Jeter. I don’t love the Yankees, but I respect them and Captain Clutch deserves some of that respect. 14 time All-star, 5 World Series titles (including MVP in 2000), 3465 hits and a career .310 batting average to go with 5 gold gloves. Just an all around stud. And the legend of those gift baskets also deserves respect.
Ottertheoracle says: Even the Gerbfather has his moments. Many great defenders in soccers wore number two but Derek Jeter is one of the best sportsmen ever.
Number 3 No shocker here (yes that is Leonard “Spock” Nemoy). There are some players that are such legends that they are as big as the sport itself. This makes it back to back Yankees, but you can’t deny The Bambino without getting cursed. Babe Ruth needs no introduction. His legend as a Yankee and as a baseball player will live in infamy as long as we talk about baseball. I am sure Allen Iverson, Dwayne Wade and the late great Dale Earnhart would agree. Even if they were Red Sox fans.
Ottertheoracle says: Agree.
Number 4 I know you Yankees fans are hoping to make it a trifecta here, but even the original Iron Man Lou Gehrig has to move down a rung along with Brett Favre. There is only room for one Number 4, Bobby Orr. The Pride of Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada is the best defenceman to ever lace them up in the NHL and there are many who argue he may be the best player ever. Bad knees took him away from us too soon, but not before becoming the only defenceman to win the NHL scoring title (twice), 2 Stanley Cups, 8 consecutive James Norris Trophies as Best defenceman, and the first player (and the only player not named Wayne Gretzky) to record 100 assists in a season.
Ottertheoracle says: I know the Gerbfather has a man-crush on Bobby Orr. I don’t want to hurt his feelings.
Number 5 This was the toughest one so far for me and once again I had to fight with another Yankee legend in “Joltin” Joe Dimaggio. I also had to fight with my German roots and the voice of my father in my head regarding Der Kaiser Frans Beckenbauer. I considered Islander great Denis Potvin and Orioles Legend Brooks Robinson. I decided, however to go with a different 3rd baseman and personal favourite, George Brett. There are few who played the game as hard Mr. Royal. One of only a handful of players to finish their career with 3000+ hits, 300+ home runs and a .300+ batting average. And who can forget him charging the mound in The Pine Tar Incident.
Ottertheoracle says: Joe Di Maggio is a decent choice. Preference is for Niclas “Lidas” Lidström. He won the Stanley Cup four times. He played for Detroit all his 20 seasons in the NHL. He always had more time on the ice than anyone else. They still sell his jersey in Detroit. Nuff said.
Number 6 This number came down to two great basketball legends for me. Bill Russell and Julius “Dr.J” Erving. On one side, there is the legend of those Celtics teams and the 11 NBA Championships of which Russell was the centre piece (pardon the pun). Perhaps if I got a chance to see him live, it would have made a difference. I do recall seeing highlights of Dr.J on sports news and on TV as well as the ads on the back of my comic books for Spalding with him and Rick Barry. He was Jordan before Jordan. I know I attempted more than a few sponge ball dunks on door frame hoops with the name Dr. J on my lips. Sorry Bill.
This one is easy. Gerb doesn’t know soccer and has forgotten about the best sweeper/defender ever. Franco Baresi was brutal and won Champions League with Milan 89,90 and 94. Playing with Maldini, Costacurta and Tassotti, Baresi was clearly number one. And wore #6.
Number 7 Them damn Yankees! I wanted to put Phil Esposito here (being a Bruin fan) and I am happy that there are many ahead of John Elway. And this will certainly boil the blood of Cristiano Ronaldo fans, but there is just no way to leave the best switch hitter in baseball history off the this list. Mickey Mantle is number 7. A 20 time All-Star, 7 time World Series Champ, 3 time MVP and 4 Time AL Home Run King, not to mention a Triple Crown in 1956 are just a few of the Commerce Comets accolades. He was as popular with the fans (and the ladies) as any Yankee before or since. His towering homers are things of legend and as a collector, I know his baseball cards, in particular the 1952 Topps card (a PSA 9 version sold for US$2.8 million in 2018) is worth a fortune.
I had Elway, Mantle, David Beckham, Ronaldo and Cantona on my list. Cantona could kick both fans ands balls alike but Mantle is a good pick.
Number 8 This one was tough for a number of reasons. I put considerable thought into Kobe Bryant and not just out of emotion for the recent tragedy. But he only wore 8 for half his career (10 seasons). Had he done the full 20, maybe. What to do with Alex Ovechkin “The Great 8“? Maybe in 5 years when his career is over, the argument will be stronger. I loved “The Hawk” Andre Dawson growing up, and what about Yogi Berra (them damn Yankees!). They all became also rans to Cal Ripken Jr. Born in Havre de Grace, Maryland and playing his entire career with the Baltimore Orioles, “The Iron Man” and “The Streak” dominated the headlines in 1995 when he broke Lou Gehrig‘s streak of 2130 consecutive games played (eventually reaching a mind numbing 2632 consecutive games). He was more than just the streak though. He made 19 consecutive All-Star games, 3184 hits, 431 Home Runs, and is considered by many to be the best shortstop to play the game. Take another lap Cal, you deserve it.
I love Havre de Grace, I will go there and eat by the bay watching trains go by. This choice is for the retired ones. The Great 8 is clearly the best athlete ever to wear the #8 jersey. My second choice would probably be Teemu Selänne.
Number 9 There are A LOT of great players here. Ted Williams would be an acceptable choice. Hockey greats “Rocket” Richard and Bobby Hull would also be reasonable. But not when you are up against Mr. Hockey. Gordie Howe is the only answer here. His hockey career went from 1946 to 1980 (and he scored 41 points in his final NHL season and played all 80 games…at the age of 52!) and he held nearly every NHL career scoring record when he retired. A complete hockey player who had the phrase “The Gordie Howe Hat Trick” named after him (when you score, get an assist and get into a fight in the same game) it is easy to say there will never be another Gordie Howe. A gentlemen off the ice and fearless, ruthless on it, he may be one of the greatest athletes to wear any number, not just number 9.
Can’t disagree with Gerbfather here. But Drew Brees is a pretty good athlete as well and should be in the discussion.
Number 10 No other sport covets a number like soccer (football) does the Number 10. And becasue of that you will not see Fran Tarkenton or (sadly) Canadian Steve Nash. You could do an entire article on just the soccer players, Zico, Messi, Maradona, Platini to name a few. For me, it is the legend of Edson Arantes do Nascimento that stands out. Who? We all know him better as Pelé. He played on 4 World Cup teams (including being the youngest player to play and score in a Final at 17 years old) winning 3 (the one Brazil didn’t win, Pelé was injured and unable to play when they lost). He holds the World Record for most goals in all competitions (1283 goals in 1363 games) as well as most hat-tricks (92). But he was more than a goal scorer. He also holds records for most assists in a single FIFA World Cup (10) and most assists in a Final (3). There are an awful lot of great players to choose from, but for me the World Cup is the greatest soccer competition of them all, and he was the best.
Pele? For reals? Won the World Cup in Sweden? No the best number 10 ever was gifted by el mano de dio (or whatever it is called in spanish). Maradona was as good with his hands as his feet.