What’s your number? (Part one)
SPORTS EYE - Raffy Uytiepo (The Freeman) - September 1, 2020 - 12:00am

Some athletes connection with numbers can go deeper than a birthday.  Sports Illustrated came out with a survey on athletes from the NBA, Major League Baseball (MLB), National Hockey League (NHL), National Football League (NFL) and (NASCAR), as who is best suited to own a certain number.  I’m sure this will ignite another debate, but let’s see if you agree with the choices.  We cannot mention all the numbers from 0/00 to 99, so we will just pick the more popular ones.  0/00-Several NBA players wore 0/00.  Damian Lilliard, Jeff Teague, Russel Westbrook and Robert Parish.  NFL’s Jim Otto of the Los Angeles Raiders looked like he was the choice.  Otto was the best center in the history of the AFL, made two ALL-NFL teams and was inducted into the PRO Football Hall of Fame.  But the decision went to Robert Parish of the Boston Celtics who teamed with Larry Bird and Kevin Mchale to win three NBA titles in the 80s.  He earned the rings battling three legendary stars in the Finals, Moses Malone (1981), Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the 1984 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1986.  Lakers Kyle Kuzma and the Celtics’ Jason Tatum currently wear the # 0.

Number 6

The battle for number six is fierce and the contenders were Julius Erving, Lebron James (before switching to 23 then 6 and 23 again), and Bill Russell.  And the winner? Bill Russel, a shot blocker and rebounder who led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons.  Russel won two NCCA crowns and went to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, bringing home a gold medal

Number 8

Yoggi Berra and Kobe Bryant were the contenders but the verdict went to Berra of the New York Yankees who won 10 World Series rings, the most of any player in baseball history.  He was also MVP, three times.

Number 10

The number belongs to soccer as it was worn by arguably the three greatest players in the history of the sport, Lionel Messi (still active), Diego Maradona and Pele.  The Black Pearl got the nod with 1,281 goals in his career while leading Brazil to World Cup victories in 1958, 1962 and 1970.  Guy Lafleur of the Montreal Canadiens, who led his team to five Stanley Cups, was a contender but Pele is just too much.  NBA players who sported number 10 were Walt Frazier of the Knicks, Maurice Cheeks of Philadelphia and Jojo White of the Celtics.  Dennis Rodman also wore the number for a while.

Number 13

Some players dreaded this number as they think it’s unlucky.  Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins who once tallied 42 touchdowns passes in 1984, vied for the number but alas, was dislodged by Wilt Chamberlain, the only player in NBA history to score 100 points in a game. Chamberlain also owns a 55-rebound game and averaged 50.4 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in the 1961-62 season.  Other NBA players who wore 13 are James Harden (active), Mark Jackson, Steve Nash and Joakim Noah.

Number 21 

Club 21 is packed with some of the biggest personalities in sports, Pirates’ Roberto Clemente, Roger Clemens (Red Sox) and Delon Sanders of San Francisco and Dallas in the NFL.  Other contenders were NBA players Dominique Wilkins, Bill Sharman, Dave Bing and Kevin Garnett.  But the rightful owner is Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, winning two titles alongside David Robinson and three more with Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.  Joel Embid, the Sixers behemoth, currently wears 21.

Number 23

Everybody wants to wear this number and what’s the reason? Michael Jordan of course.  Jordan settled for 23 in his high school team uniform since his brother Larry, wore 45, Michael’s first choice.  Before he joined the Heat, Lebron James said he dropped the number 6 as a tribute to MJ. Now with the Los Angeles Lakers, James is back to 23.  When David Beckham came to Real Madrid, the number 7 he wore for Manchester United was taken, so he jumped to 23 in honor of Jordan.

Number 24

Kobe Bryant should have been the owner of this number but the verdict went to baseball’s Willie Mays who rattled 660 home runs, 3,282 hits and 12 Gold Gloves.  Other players who wore 24 were Rick Barry (Golden State), Bill Bradley (New York) and Moses Malone (Phila).

Number 30

Although Martin Brodeur was instrumental in leading his New Jersey teams to 16 playoffs and three Stanley Cups, the NBA’s Stephen Currey is more popular.  Currey wears number 30 for the Golden State Warriors, same number worn by his dad Dell Curry when he played for the Charlotte Hornets.  Other NBA players who wore this number were Bernard King (New York), Kenny Smith (who walked out recently in an NBA broadcast) and Rasheed Wallace

Number 32

This is another number that is crowded with talents.  Magic Johnson looked like the hands down winner until Jim Brown got the nod.  Brown averaged 104.3 rushing yards a game and won an NFL crown for the Cleveland Browns.  Brown also became a movie action star and a favorite player of football fanatic Elvis Presley.  Other contenders were the Dodger’s Sandy Koufax and the controversial O.J Simpson.  Magic wore number 33 at Michigan but switched to 32 with the Lakers because Kareem Abdul Jabbar was already wearing the number.  Shaquille O’ Neal sports 32 when he started his career with the Orlando Magic, but moved up to 34 when he signed with the Lakers because 32 and 33 had both been retired.  Shaq returned to 32 in his next two stops in Miami and Phoenix.  Julius Erving wore 32 when he played for the New Jersey Nets in the ABA. 

Number 33

There’s a great argument and a close one, as who gets to wear the number, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Larry Bird.  But on achievements alone, this should be no contest with Jabbar as the NBA’s leading scorer.  He won six MVP awards with the Bucks and Lakers and his teams won six NBA titles.  Bird won 3 MVP awards and the Celtics won 3 crowns.  Jabbar wore 33 at UCLA winning three NCAA titles while Bird also wearing 33, led Indiana to the 1979 NCAA crown.  Other players who wore 33 are Patrick Ewing, Grant Hill, Scottie Pippen and Alonzo Mourning.  During my La Salle Bacolod stint in the late sixties, i wore 33 because I was able to perfect my baby hook shot.  Would you believe I could score with a hook rather than with a jump shot?.  In Cebu I also sported the number during our PTA days in San Carlos Boys H.S where we played against the faculty.  My team mates included George Guillen, Titoy Mangubat and Bolgen Campomanes. 

NEXT COLUMN: Let’s tackle numbers 34, 35, 44, 50, 53 and 99.

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