Top 5 Most Famous Jersey Numbers in Sports

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Even if you couldn’t see their faces from the nosebleed seats, you’d recognize the number on their backs. Michael Jordan flew past his competition so fast he was nothing but “Air” and the No. 23. Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 was so synonymous with his game that both the National and American Leagues retired it. Look up into the rafters or up on a fence for a walk through history as pennants and flags flying high bear the most famous jersey numbers in sports. It’s no wonder that these top five jersey numbers and their human icons are considered the best of the best.

5 No. 28 Marshall Faulk

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Arguably, the NFL’s best running back, Marshall Faulk’s No. 28 flew down the field in the face of his rivals. The Pro Football Hall of Famer could do it all—catch, run—and he had speed and the ability of a linebacker. Versatility was his middle name. Faulk’s 12,000 career yards rushing and 6,000 career yards receiving put him in the record books before he officially retired in 2006. The St. Louis Rams retired his jersey in 2007.

4 No. 23 Michael Jordan

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Six-time NBA champ Michael “Air” Jordan’s No. 23 jersey is as famous as his face and name. Many say that his jersey number is the most recognizable number ever worn by an athlete. Considering that the 1985 Rookie-of-the-Year is a five-time NBA most valuable player and 14-time All-Star, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the mere mention of No. 23 sends both fans and sponsors into their happy places.

3 No. 19 Steve Yzerman

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NHL center Steve Yzerman’s mojo goes way past Hockeytown. The captain of the Detroit Redwings for 20 years, Yzerman’s legendary consistency and leadership, not to mention three Stanley Cups, make No.19 a household name. Inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame post-retirement, Yzerman was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2009.

2 No. 99 Wayne Gretzky

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No. 99’s Wayne Gretzky is the National Hockey League’s all-time leading scorer. Known forever as “The Great One,” he towers over second-place Mark Messier by 1,000 points. Gretzky is one of three players in NHL history to make 700 goals and 1,000 assists. Nine MVP seasons and four Stanley Cups later, Gretzky is arguably the greatest offensive hockey player and sports figures of all time.

1 No. 42 Jackie Robinson

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Jackie Robinson’s pioneering spirit broke baseball’s color barriers in 1947 when he became the first African-American major league baseball player. That year, he hit a dozen homers, led the National League in stolen bases and was selected Rookie of the Year—all while lifting the Dodgers to the pennant and combating intense racism. Robinson played in six World Series, winning one, and played in six consecutive All-Star games. He was also the first African-American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Oh yeah, and his No. 42 was retired by every Major League Baseball team, in both the National and American Leagues.

Cheryl Hosmer is founder of an educational resource for parents and teachers. She is a science writer and teaches online courses in novel writing, ghostwriting and community journalism. Hosmer holds a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies from Madonna University.

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