Outside The Box: famous sports numbers

By Alex Mitchell

Numbers never lie — and they certainly don't in sport.

Players wear numbers for identification purposes, but they come to mean far more than that and take on lives of their own.

In some sports — think rugby league and union — numbers are prescribed via which position you play, where in other sports, there is no such requirement yet the same process occurs.

Our task today — identify which numbers within certain sports are synonymous with certain stereotypes.

Football — number seven

Flashy, creative, capable of magic — if you're going to don the number seven in football, you better be capable of making an impact in the final third.

Take Manchester United for example, where seven simply equals being the attacking leader.

Going back through time, George Best brought dynamism and pace in legendary quantities, Eric Cantona and David Beckham spearheaded titles galore — and perhaps no player in history screams number seven like the great Cristiano Ronaldo.

And what weight can a number hold?

Again taking the Manchester United example, Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia inherited the famous number seven, but promptly gave it up after a one-goal season.

Other famous number sevens include Portuguese great Luis Figo, and Spanish star Raul; champions.

Australian rules — number 18

Perhaps it is simply due to the era I grew up in, but I equate the number 18 with the power forward — a goal-kicker capable of absolutely bagging goals up.

I started Auskick in 2000 with that famous number on my Essendon jumper, of course emulating the one and only Matthew Lloyd, who finished his career with a lazy 926 goals.

But before then, North Melbourne star Wayne Carey had already made those digits stand out as a goal-kicker's number, with his 671-goal career having him go down as perhaps the best ever.

It genuinely pleases me that the traditions of number 18 have been carried on in recent years; Greater Wester Sydney big rig Jeremy Cameron is the league's standout forward currently, and what Eddie Betts lacked in size when wearing the number for Adelaide, he made up for in a ridiculous appetite for sausages.

Basketball — number 23

Number 23 is more synonymous with one player than a particular stereotype — that of course being Michael Jordan — but LeBron James also wearing this number has made it equate to one thing; legend status.

The two greatest basketballers ever have worn the same famed number, and now whenever any player chooses to don it on their own jersey, they are essentially trying to emulate the two dons.

LeBron recognised the legendary impact of the number, and actually tried to retire it at one point before his move from Cleveland to Miami.

“(Jordan) can't get the logo (Hall of Famer Jerry West's silhouette adorns the NBA's logo), and if he can't, something has to be done,” James said.

“I feel like no NBA player should wear 23. I'm starting a petition, and I've got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I'm not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it.”

LeBron isn't the best at following through words with actions at times and unretired the number on his return to Cleveland, but his point was made.

Rugby league — number one

This is just a personal taste thing for me as fullbacks in league have no choice but to take the number one jumper.

In my time being aware of this sport, I've had the privilege of watching the king Billy Slater always strutting his stuff in the number one — I just love the way fullbacks roam the play, chill at the back and then just turn it on and light a game up.

Other favourites across time include Anthony Minichello (gun), Matt Bowen and Jarrad Hayne (Hayne Train), while my emerging favourite fullback is Newcastle wiz Kalyn Ponga.

If you want to see action in league, keep your eyes on the number one.

Football — number nine


A poacher in football simply must wear the number nine — the centre-forward position is literally referred to as "number nine".

When thinking of the greats, my mind goes straight to Brazil assassin Ronaldo — he literally ate goals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What about Alan Shearer, Robbie Fowler, Andy Cole, Bobby Charlton, the list just goes on and on — if you are given the number nine, your job is to bang goals in for a living.

Greyhounds — number one

I've got four words for you — inside dog, early speed.

If you've never plonked a considerable amount of cash on a pooch because it's got the red rug on it and it's meant to have good early speed, I'm not sure you've lived.

It is a punting tradition unlike any other and for that reason, the dish licker number one belongs on this list.