American Football / Baseball / Basketball / Soccer

What's in a sports shirt number?

Back in 2016, Sky Sports wrote a list of athletes that had trouble getting their desired shirt numbers. Some were successful after some bargaining (Deion Sanders and, to a more aggressive extent, Paulo Futre) while others had to make a compromise like Ivan Zamorano and his infamous 1+8 shirt number at Inter Milan (which I love to this day).

And then there was Michael Jordan:

Michael Jordan is synonymous with 23. The former Chicago Bulls shooting guard won six NBA titles between 1991-1998 wearing the iconic digits. Jordan was one of sport’s first megastars and 23 became the fashion, players choosing to pay homage to his ability, including David Beckham when he joined Real Madrid in 2003.

But 23 wasn’t Jordan’s first choice. In high school, his preferred number was 45. His older brother Larry was already playing for the varsity team with that number, and so Jordan simply halved it and rounded up.

After three consecutive titles in Chicago, Jordan chose to pursue his dream of a professional baseball career, and retired from the NBA. The Bulls retired his jersey, and so when he came out of retirement in 1995, Jordan reverted to his preferred high school number.

However, on the 23rd game into his comeback, Jordan switched back to 23. Despite fines totalling over $100,000 from the NBA, Jordan donned 23 for the remaining play-off games against the Orlando Magic, and then made the change official for the start of the 1996 season.

An expensive decision, but another ‘three-peat’ followed, so maybe it was all worth it.

I guess he took that number personally.

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