Whats your number (Conclusion)
SPORTS EYE - Raffy Uytiepo (The Freeman) - September 8, 2020 - 12:00am

After debating as to who owns a particular number from 0/00 to 33. Let’s tackle some more preferred ones.  NUMBER 34. The list is also crucial, it’s hard to select between Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Charles Barkley of the NBA, but the decision went to Walter Payton of the Bears in the NFL who led the league in yards per return besides being a devastating blocker.  When he retired, he held the NFL records in rushing yards and touchdowns.  Other contenders were Nolan Ryan and Fernando Valenzuela of the MLB and NFL’s Bo Jackson.  Paul Pierce was given the #34  in high school because it was the team’s biggest uniform and the only one that fits him. Shaq wore 34 when he was with the Orlando Magic for the first four years and also wore 33 and 36 in his late career but it was #34 of the Lakers that Shaq dominated the league, winning three championships while being named Finals MVP each time.  He won his only MVP award in L.A.

NUMBER 35. Kevin Durant (now with the Brooklyn Nets) and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks could very well figure in a toss-up to wear this number. But Frank Thomas of the White Sox snatched the verdict.  Thomas, 2014 Hall of Fame inductee, was a two-time MVP.  He has 521 home runs and led the MBL in walk, four times.  Other contenders were NHL’s Tony Esposito and the NBA’s  Darrell Griffith of the Utah Jazz.

NUMBER 41. Contenders are Dirk Nowitzki and Wes Unseld but  the nod went to Tom Sealer of the New York Mets, the only Mets player to have his number retired. His resume includes 311 wins and 3,640 strikeouts.  When Nowitzki joined the Dallas Mavericks in 1998, he wanted 14 which has been his number as a pro baller in his native Germany, but the number was already taken by Robert Pack.  So he flipped the digits.  Nowitzki also wore number 14 when he played for the German national team.

NUMBER 44 .This number is teeming with talents that made the selection quite hard.  Heading the list are Jerry West, nicknamed “Mr. Clutch” for making so many game winning shots.  West averaged 27 points in his career.   His Lakers made the Finals in nine of his 14 seasons and was MVP of the 1969 Finals, the only time the honor has gone to a player on the losing team.  Crowding West are Pete Maravich, George Gervin, Dan Issel and Paul Westphal.  But the number belonged to Hank Aaron known as the “Home Run King”.  In 1974, Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s lifetime record of 714 home runs.  When he retired in 1976, Aaron had a total of 755 homers.  Also known as “Hammerin Hank”, Aaron owned the most lifetime runs batted (2,297) while earning three Golden Glove Awards.  Another baseball great Reggie Jackson, wore 44 in his Yankees and Angels’ years.

 NUMBER 50. Battle for the number 50 revolves around great players, NFL’s Mike Singletary and the NBA’s David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs.  Robinson is a graduate of the Naval Academy who turned the Spurs into winners.  He was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in his third season and MVP in his sixth.  But Robinson, nicknamed the Admiral did’nt win a championship until Tim Duncan arrived.  The year he won MVP, he was destroyed in the playoffs by rival Hareem Olajuwon.  So, without Duncan, could Robinson do it all for the Spurs?  The verdict went to Singletary, the ferocious Bears middle linebacker.  He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice.  In 1985, the Bears Super Bowl season he led a unit that held opponents to 10 points or less in 11 of 16 regular season games.  Other contenders were the NBA’s Ralph Sampson, Zach Randolf and Emeka Okafor.

NUMBER 53. Big men dominated this number. Backboard breaker Darryl Dawkins, Mark Eaton, Alton Lister and 7’2” Artis Gilmore.  But the MLB’s Don Drysdale got the nod.  At 6’5”, the temperamental side armer, threw at batters frequently and earned the title “The meanest man in baseball”.  Drysdale batted, 300 (in 130 at bats) and registered seven homeruns in two seasons.  In 1968, Disney came out with a movie about a living car Herbie, the Love Bug.  The car had 53 on its side because producer Bill Walsh was a fan of Drysdale.  NASCAR racers also adopted the number but Bob Bykdick was the only winner in 1961. 

NUMBER 99. The NBA’s first big man George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers would be the choice.  He reeled off three scoring titles from 1949 to 1951, earning the title “Mr. Basketball”.  But the NHL’s Wayne Gretzky was the winner.  He exceeded  200 points in a season four times, whereas, no other player has done it once.  He holds the record for goals in a season with 92 and is the NHL All-Time scorer on assists alone.  He won four Stanley Cups, all for the Edmonton Oilers after he retired, the league declared that after Gretzky, no NHL player would wear 99 again.  By the way, when George Mikan died in 2005, Shaquille O’Neal paid his funeral expenses. “Without 99, there is no me” said Shaq. Other numbers worth mentioning are number 3 with the NBA’s Allen Iverson.  Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Anthony Davis.  But the winner hands down is Babe Ruth of baseball. Number 5 will have to go to Joe Dimaggio of the Yankee Clippers who won 3 MVPs and nine World Series rings.  He once was married to Hollywood siren Marilyn Monroe.  The NBA’s Jason Kidd wore numbers 5 so did Kevin Garnett with the Celtics.  Number 42, it’s a crime not to mention this number.  It belongs to Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947.  In the NBA, James Worthy, Kevin Love, Elton Brand, Nate Thurmond, Connie Hawkins and Jerry Stackhouse, all wore 42.

NUMBER 43. Arguably goes to Richard Petty a seven-time NASCAR champion who has won 200 races.

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