What’s In A Number?


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The different jersey numbers that are worn by football players.

Nicole Stone, Reporter

    Have you ever wondered what the number on the back of an athlete’s jersey really means? For some it may tell an entire story, while for others it could just be a random choice. When looking at the back of someone’s jersey you most likely look at the number and don’t think anything of it. The fact is that most people have their personal preference, but you never know if that preference has a story behind it. Many similar stories for athletes choosing their numbers is that their father/mother wore that number, their spouse loves that number, it is the age that they are, they were randomly given it, it is the day they were born, it was the number they first started with, e.t.c. 

      Specifically, I have played soccer since I was 4 years old. Each year, I have been number 7 for two specific reasons. One of the reasons is that 7 has always been my lucky number because it is the day that I was born. The second reason that I chose the number 7 is because my dad was number 7 for soccer throughout his college career. Because I wear a number that is very special to me while playing the game that I love, I know that my jersey number actually helps me to perform better on the field. This is because I feel a great degree in confidence in myself and in my playing ability when I am wearing a number on the back of my jersey that represents my dad who taught me to play the game of soccer and who was an amazing soccer player himself.  

      Oftentimes, professional athletes have to choose between certain numbers based on their position. For instance, in football, linebackers and defensive backs are usually between numbers 1 to 49, centers are usually 50 to 59, e.t.c. Professional basketball players in the NBA are only authorized to wear numbers between 00-99 on the back of their jerseys.  In soccer, number 10 and number 7 are very popular because many legends have worn these numbers and they are often referred to as “lucky”. 

      Lebron James exclaims, “I wear the No. 23 for the great Michael Jordan,’ James said. ‘When I started playing basketball, I was like: Oh man, that two-three looks good. I wanna be able to fly like him. I wanna be able to shoot like him. I wanna be able to dunk on somebody like him. I wanna be able to stick out my tongue like him in the air and yell in somebody’s face like MJ.’”  Additionally, Stephen Curry has worn the number 30 on the back of his jersey for both his college and professional career because his father was also a professional basketball player as well who wore the number 30, so he wanted to pay tribute to his dad by wearing the same number. 

      Anthony Degasperis is a senior here at West Boca who has played on the Varsity football team for 4 years straight. When asked why he chose number 51, he explains, with a complete honest answer of, “My story isn’t that interesting. I was just like wow that’s a good looking number, and I just kind of rocked it.” 

      Regardless of the reasons why someone chooses the number on the back of their jersey, that number represents that specific individual as they are playing their given sport, and they will often be referred to solely by that number.  For instance, a coach could tell their team to “look out for number 12” on the opposing team because that specific person is a very strong player and needs to be double teamed. On the contrary, a soccer coach could also say that “number 3 is very slow” so the players know that it will be easy to push the ball past him/her and score a goal. 
Since numbers are linked specifically to certain players on their specific sports teams, many numbers are often “retired” by a certain team when one of their great players retires from the game.  As a result, that number can never be worn again by a future player on that specific team.  Some examples of this are the number 23 for Michael Jordan by the Chicago Bulls, the number 3 for Dwayne Wade by the Miami Heat,  the number 33 for Larry Bird by the Boston Celtics, and the number 13 for Dan Marino by the Miami Dolphins.             

      All in all, jersey numbers will be chosen/given to individuals for various reasons. There are so many different stories behind these numbers that many don’t even realize. Each of these numbers is tied to a certain individual on a specific team, either recreational or professional, during a given sports season. Although you may not know the stories behind each jersey number, it is definitely interesting to think about.