FanDuel - WFBC

July 06, 2007

The best athletes ever, by number.: A team of SI.com's finest numerologists crunched the data on jersey numbers to come up with the best performers (across all sports) at each number from 00 to 99 (Eddie Gaedel was a lock at 1/8).

posted by mr_crash_davis to general at 08:48 AM - 60 comments

Sorry, but number 60 must go to Tommy Nobis of the Atlanta Falcons via the University of Texas. There should be no debate. Otto Graham was great, but his impact doesn't match that of Tommy's.

posted by Toad8572 at 09:35 AM on July 06

The SportingNews recently did a similar list with the current best athletes at each number. I'd have to say I like this list better.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 09:42 AM on July 06

Secretariat at number 2 and Pele at number 10 means we get to call it "across all sports"? I couldn't find it in the archieve, but is this not a double? I'm sure I've seen it before and I never did it with no other sports blog... ah sweeah! On preview - thanks Ying Yang - I knew it looked familiar (even though it isn't - not really).

posted by JJ at 09:59 AM on July 06

Secretariat at number 2 and Pele at number 10 means we get to call it "across all sports"? Yeah, that's kinda dumb. A buncha baseball, basketball, hockey and American football players, one horse, and one of the only two soccer players the average SI writer can name, and suddenly we're "across all sports". Also, why call Secreteriat "number 2", when that was one number the horse wore in one race? If you're going to do that, track athletes, swimmers, skiers, etc. should also be in the running, based on the numbers they were wearing when they did some big important something. All in all, dumb concept article. Put the parentheses wherever you want on that one.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:05 AM on July 06

"Sorry, but number 60 must go to Tommy Nobis of the Atlanta Falcons via the University of Texas. There should be no debate. Otto Graham was great, but his impact doesn't match that of Tommy's." Impact? I had to look him up to find who he was even. I've known of Graham since I was a kid. Maybe Nobis is big stuff in Texas, but Graham's NATIONAL impact was well beyond that of Nobis, who isn't even a member of the pro football hall of fame. You're right about one thing: there should be no debate.

posted by zddoodah at 10:23 AM on July 06

Where the heck is Luc Robitaille at #20?! Not even a mention of the highest scoring left winger in the history of the NHL (particularly when Vladislaw Tretiak is on the list) is an INSULT. Frank Robinson probably should have gotten the nod, with Luc, Barry and Mike Schmidt fighting it out for runner-up.

posted by zddoodah at 10:26 AM on July 06

Dumb. They lost me at 1, As good as Warren Moon was, and he was a talented quarterback, give me a break. Jacques Plante was the first #1 that popped into my mind. Both historically and talentwise, he more important than Mr. Moon.

posted by tommytrump at 10:30 AM on July 06

When did people who drive cars become "athletes"? I'm sure Richard Petty over Dennis Eckersley at #43 was an appeal to the winston-smoking redneck element, but come on! Dale Earnhart over Bronco Nagurski for runner-up at #3? I'll excuse Jimmie Johnson at #48 since I've never heard of Sam McDowell and I couldn't think of an actual athlete who wore that number.

posted by zddoodah at 10:31 AM on July 06

As usual I was slightly confused 'til I read the article.Remember ESPN's list of the greatest athletes?

posted by sickleguy at 10:39 AM on July 06

I was getting ready to perform my annual "Richard is my choice at #9 over Howe" schtick, but SI pulled the rug under me by picking Ted Williams. I find it pointless to argue against whole sports. They did nail #4, though. Is there a place where it's just a text list, and I don't have to click through a hundred pictures?

posted by qbert72 at 10:42 AM on July 06

It's official. Dumb. For #2, they considered Tommy Lasorda? As an athlete? He played 3 seasons in the majors.

posted by tommytrump at 10:53 AM on July 06

This one is much better than the last 'best by the number' list we had weeks ago. They didn't seem to miss the really important digits(3,7,10,23,34,42,56,99). My first reaction is to go straight to #10. If it ain't Maradona or Pele, the list is crap. Also, I can't argue with #7, but the runners-up are: David Beckham, Phil Esposito, Ted Lindsay. Ummm..George Best?....wankers

posted by r8rh8r27 at 11:06 AM on July 06

When did people who've never heard of Sam McDowell become "authorities"? It's hard enough comparing athletes across eras in the same sport. Trying to quantify the contributions of athletes in all sports (in the loosest sense of "all") across all eras with winners getting to claim their uniform numbers seems totally absurd.* *This view may or may not be colored by their choice of a horse over Derek Jeter.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 11:08 AM on July 06

Ummm..George Best?....wankers But David Beckham made more money than him and now Americans know who he is. Oh wait...

posted by JJ at 11:14 AM on July 06

"When did people who've never heard of Sam McDowell become 'authorities'"? Hmmm...I don't seem to recall claiming to be an "authority," and you'll excuse me if I've never heard of a starting pitcher who won fewer than 6 games per year (141 wins over 25 years) and was barely over 500 for his career.

posted by zddoodah at 11:18 AM on July 06

"a starting pitcher who won fewer than 6 games per year (141 wins over 25 years)" AARRGH! Stupid math. Make that fewer than 10 games per year (141 wins over 15 years).

posted by zddoodah at 11:28 AM on July 06

As good as Warren Moon was, and he was a talented quarterback, give me a break. I think the reason I'd pick Moon over Plante is that Moon was a barrier-breaking athlete. His unqualified success in the CFL made it impossible for the NFL owners/GMs to keep him out of the NFL, even though he was a "black quarterback" (which is hilarious to think about nowadays with some of the talented QBs in the NFL since then). When you look at the numbers that Moon put up in the CFL and the NFL, it's not that hard to see him as a contemporary to Plante in terms of "greatness".

posted by grum@work at 12:20 PM on July 06

Make that fewer than 10 games per year (141 wins over 15 years). True, true. Of course, he had fewer than 10 starts in three of those seasons and fewer than 20 in three others, but hey, math is math. He did amass nearly 2,500 strikeouts pitching for pretty bad teams and won 20 games in a season his club only won 76, but, you know, whatever. You don't know him, so that's that. Your airs of authority, in my opinion, were implied by your rather clumsy rhetorical claim that race drivers aren't athletes, which you followed up by stereotyping their fan base in a pretty derogatory and bigoted fashion. My question was rhetorical, too. I'm not much of a racing fan, but I expect you'll be hearing about it all the doodah day from those who are -- in the meantime, you might want something to read while you wait for your beating.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 12:23 PM on July 06

Not sure when this list was written, but it seems a more inclusive list. It even includes Christy Ring as a possible 10, which probably means that an Irish person was involved, as I don't think a hurler from the 40's & 50's is all that well known outside Ireland. However great we all know that he was.

posted by Fence at 12:28 PM on July 06

WTF? No Maradona at 10, and no Cruyff at 14? That's when I stopped reading.

posted by savona at 12:37 PM on July 06

in the meantime, you might want something to read while you wait for your beating. You are the wind beneath my wings.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:54 PM on July 06

I think the reason I'd pick Moon over Plante is that Moon was a barrier-breaking athlete. What barrier?

posted by tommytrump at 02:08 PM on July 06

The barrier for a black QB to play in the NFL. He wasn't the first, but he certainly faced barriers. He went to the CFL to get an opportunity to play QB because the NFL scouts wanted him to play another position. It worked out well for him. He's the first player to be in the HOF of both the CFL and NFL and the first black QB in the NFL HOF.

posted by bperk at 02:22 PM on July 06

That wasn't a barrier. Kenny Washington and Woody Strode broke the colour barrier in the NFL. As far as quarterbacks, the man who broke the barrier was Willie Thrower. Warren Moon faced obstacles, not barriers. Two completely different things.

posted by tommytrump at 02:39 PM on July 06

No Maradona at 10, and no Cruyff at 14? That's when I stopped reading. No offense to the great Maradona, but he is no Pele. Pele - 77 goals in 92 appearances for Brazil and 1000+ for club Diego - 47 goals in 99 appearances for Argentina and 300+ for club Maradona was a great player but Batistuta was closer to Peles scoring pace. It is only because Maradona single handedly won Argentina a World Cup they are mentioned in the same breath.

posted by Ricardo at 02:46 PM on July 06

Holy cow! We're arguing over whether barrier and obstacle are the same word. Just because an athlete breaks a colour barrier, doesn't mean it is torn down and gone. Even though the MLB colour barrier had been broken many years ago, Marge Schott proved it wasn't gone. And none of this is to say I'd pick Moon over Plante since I don't know enough about hockey history to choose.

posted by Ricardo at 03:01 PM on July 06

Plante over Moon, no question. Certainly Moon was talented, but the history and overall contributions to his sport side with Plante. And Ted Williams or Gordie Howe. What a debate. Whatever you choose, the other side will, rightfully, scream.

posted by roberts at 03:10 PM on July 06

That wasn't a barrier. Kenny Washington and Woody Strode broke the colour barrier in the NFL. As far as quarterbacks, the man who broke the barrier was Willie Thrower. Warren Moon faced obstacles, not barriers. Two completely different things. There's no difference. Barrier. Obstacle. Anyway, there was not a rule that the NFL had to be segregated. And, those players you named reintegrated the NFL in 1946 after 12 years with no black players. There were black players in the NFL in the 20s and 30s.

posted by bperk at 03:44 PM on July 06

There is a difference. I know that by reading the definitions you provided. Jacques Plante was a much better goaltender than Warren Moon was a quarterback. Plante did far more to revolutionize his position, in fact the way the entire game of hockey was played, than Moon did his, and the way football was played.

posted by tommytrump at 05:22 PM on July 06

Thanks to Crash for the post. And I am NOT complaining....give praise to our hero's and all....BUT! The bat is right. These "BEST" lists. Always seem to disappoint. Seems like we see these things roll out almost every year 'round this time of the BBall season. They get soooo boring. Same old concepts; same old arguments. It' s kind of like watching a Kindergarten play...vaguely interesting, disappointing in general. We feign excitement...but we are really just being polite. (Much like being a Rangers fan!) Does anyone have a list we can get REALLY excited about? The 100 most deserving of rabid fandome? The 10 most notorious? The 10 sweatiest? The 10 best shoes? The top 10 dirtiest plays? The 100 sneakiest tricks? The 100 largest beer guts in sport?

posted by True Blue at 05:32 PM on July 06

#1 should be Lance Armstrong. He did win the Tour de France six times whilst wearing it.

posted by afx237vi at 05:38 PM on July 06

And Ted Williams or Gordie Howe. What a debate. Whatever you choose, the other side will, rightfully, scream. I'd go with Gordie Howe. Obviously I'm going to be slightly biased but the imapct Howe had on the Red Wings and the game of hockey itself is pretty hard to ignore. Does anyone have a list we can get REALLY excited about? All of these lists are inherently the same. Lists made in the United States never include international sports and lists outside the United States rarely include moments in the United States. Throw in that there are often glaring holes in the list and there really isn't a list to get excited about. That being said, these lists do provide great subjects for debate.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 05:44 PM on July 06

Yeah, okay, you find for me where Gordie Howe shot down even one enemy war plane, and then we'll talk. Plus, Williams was a hell of a fisherman. That's a three-sport star right there. Williams over Howe in a heartbeat.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 05:49 PM on July 06

Nominations are open. I'll put out some names. Sweatiest: Patrick Ewing Dirtiest Play: Todd Bertuzzi on Steve Moore Sneakiest Trick: Alex Rodriguez Shoes: Billy ''White Shoes'' Johnson Beer Gut: John Kruk Rabid Fan: Barrel Man Notorious: Ty Cobb (where's The Old Man to tell us stories when we need him) Aside to Crafty: as Canadian as I am, as great as Gordie was, I have to go along with you on this one. Ted Williams is #9. There are stories out there though about Howe being a pretty fair baseball player, but I think that little war thing gives Williams the edge. However, Gordie looks better than Ted these days, and is doing some of his most heroic work right now, taking care of Colleen.

posted by tommytrump at 05:53 PM on July 06

However, Gordie looks better than Ted these days, I would definitely hope so.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 06:11 PM on July 06

So is it time for my closeup, Mr Director? Gordie Howe isn't even the best #9 in hockey.

posted by qbert72 at 06:23 PM on July 06

Moon over the Big "O"? What were they smokin'?

posted by water1 at 07:53 PM on July 06

I never put together the #25 problem the guys at SI must have had. Bonds and/or McGwire? Had to be tough. Water1, have to agree with you about the #1. Have to argue with the choice at #7 as well. There are so many that my fan bias made me question the choices.

posted by chuck'n'duck at 07:55 PM on July 06

how can clemens not be in there for 21 or 22

posted by bronxbomber at 11:36 PM on July 06

I would imagine there are MANY goalkeepers in soccer much better overall than Warren Moon at #1. Gigi Buffon, Dino Zoff, Gordon Banks, Peter Schmeichel (sp?) the list is very long. I can not see a reason not to put a top soccer GK at #1 instead of a top 20 or so QB. I do agree with Pele at #10 instead of Maradona. A no brainer for me. Pele had and has the greatest overall impact than any player ever, perhaps more than any athlete worldwide ever.

posted by urall cloolis at 11:53 PM on July 06

This list is a sham. No mention of Flava Flave (number 1/2) during MTV's Rock and Jock Basketball?

posted by HATER 187 at 01:24 AM on July 07

#10 vs #1

posted by Mr Bismarck at 02:07 AM on July 07

I was looking for a way to weedle Zinedine Zidane at #5 but I guess I have to give them Joe DiMaggio. However, Donovan McNabb as a runner up and no mention of ZiZou? Then they compound this with no mention of Cruyff at 14. Mia Hamm gets a vote at #9, but not Marco Van Basten? Of course later on they start picking cars which means that Plante and Moon both become runners up to the #1 position. (Although they should both already be behind Armstrong anyway.) Across all sports indeed.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 02:44 AM on July 07

As for #34, I have to agree with the choice of Walter Payton. However, being from Houston, I'm proud that the #34 will be retired in all 3 major sports in Houston. Three greats (in three different sports) wore that number, and all are (or will be) in the Hall of Fame in their respective sport. Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell, Hakeem Olajuwon. Can't wait for Houston to get an NHL franchise, to see who will wear that number.

posted by nflhou02 at 04:48 AM on July 07

Can't wait for Houston to get an NHL franchise, to see who will wear that number. They do have one. Number 34 isn't anything special though.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 07:23 AM on July 07

Nice link Bismarck, what a save!

posted by urall cloolis at 07:24 AM on July 07

So you're saying the Texans play on skates YYM? This explains their offensive line.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:25 AM on July 07

My bad. Thought he said NFL.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 07:39 AM on July 07

How about Hall of Famer #99 Dan Hampton??

posted by scotsman at 11:03 AM on July 07

The next SI article will be " 100 GREATEST ATHLETES TO HAVE THEIR HEAD FROZEN" Right now, Ted Williams is numbers 1 through 100.

posted by MGDADDYO at 11:43 AM on July 07

Sneakiest Trick: Alex Rodriguez What for? The "Mine!" incident or slapping the ball out of the glove? Bah! Any player that can pull off the "hidden ball trick" TWICE deserves to be up there.

posted by grum@work at 12:06 PM on July 07

Lists like this are something of a waste of time. I looked at the first 33, and I think that less than half of them could really be considered athletes. I would agree that each might have been one of the best ever to play his sport, but certainly should not be considered a great athlete. A far more meaningful exercise would be to select the 100 greatest players of any sport, by number. Even doing this would do a disservice to track and field athletes, because they don't have permanent numbers. OK, I'm really trying to start a debate on what constitutes an athlete, but arguing the merits of players from different sports who happen to share a number is arguing apples vs oranges. *This view may or may not be colored by their choice of a horse over Derek Jeter. I completely disagree, Crafty. Derek Jeter never paid off in the trifecta.

posted by Howard_T at 04:36 PM on July 07

Citing Warren Moon's "barrier-breaking" impact demeans his on-field accomplishments. Simply put, his numbers in the NFL are better than even Dan Marino's, who everyone has on their all-time list. Nearly 50,000 passing yards (fourth-best), one of three with back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons in his time (Marino, Fouts), etc. He won wherever he went. Highest-paid player in his sport. Ho doesn't need African-american-ness to rank at the top.

posted by hexagram at 05:14 PM on July 07

Citing Warren Moon's "barrier-breaking" impact demeans his on-field accomplishments. It does no such thing. It adds to the legacy, not detract from it. Besides, you'll notice I mentioned "the numbers he put up in the CFL and NFL", so it's not like choosing only his being black as a reason to say he's "great". He won wherever he went. Uh, what are you talking about? He never won a title when he was with the Oilers, Chiefs, Vikings or Seahawks. He had losing seasons in his first three seasons in the NFL (1984-86). He was also the quarterback of record for the greatest collapse in NFL history. Don't ruin his memory with hyperbole.

posted by grum@work at 05:52 PM on July 07

Nothing against Lebron, but he has not grown up enough to be compared to Pete Maravich or Kirk Gibson. He is on track to be the next Erving Johnson, but he still has a long way to go!

posted by bo_fan at 12:33 PM on July 08

Warren Moon was a great qb but I think you have to go with Oscar Robertson for the #1 slot. Averging nearly a triple double for his career and 12 straight trips to the all-star game.

posted by BigPete at 01:18 PM on July 08

I can not see a reason not to put a top soccer GK at #1 instead of a top 20 or so QB Agreed. But what about Lev Yashin, the Black Octopus? But I guess there's no way he's appearing on an American list.

posted by owlhouse at 09:44 PM on July 08

Can't believe I didn't think of Yashin as one of the top GKs. I would definitely put him amongst the all time greats with Buffon, Banks, Zoff and Schmeichel. The Black Spider/Black Octopus (because he always wore black and seemed like he had 8 arms) also won a gold medal in the USSR as a Hockey Goalie.

posted by urall cloolis at 10:42 AM on July 09

The Black Spider/Black Octopus ....also won a gold medal in the USSR as a Hockey Goalie. At what level of competition, the Olympics, or local club league?

posted by tommytrump at 11:27 AM on July 09

The USSR domestic ice hockey league.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 12:55 PM on July 09

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