The Best Producing Jersey Numbers in Sports

Have you ever wondered if there’s any relationship between the number on a player’s jersey and the success they have on the court, field, ice, or turf? Just because a player is wearing No. 1, and it’s the first counting number, doesn’t mean he’s actually the best at his position. An athlete rocking the No. 33? Well, that player might be the best points-per-game shooter in the NBA. What about a pitcher in MLB? He may want to consider walking a hitter with the No. 34 on his back.

We reviewed the data, crunched the numbers, and uncovered the best producing jersey numbers in each sport – basketball, football, baseball, and hockey – so you’ll know which ones your kids should be wearing.

Best NBA Numbers for Buckets, Blocks, and Rebounds

If you’re looking to be, or already are, the MVP in your pickup league, you’ll be in good company selecting No. 32 at the next jersey distribution. And you’ll be holding yourself to some lofty standards. Showing off while wearing 32 was a nightly occurrence for Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Karl Malone, and Shaquille O’Neal.

However, if you’re a blocking and rebounding machine, wearing the No. 53 would suit you. Artis Gilmore, Darryl Dawkins, and Marc Eaton all averaged 7.14 rebounds and 1.45 blocks per game wearing those digits on their backs. Putting on that number should signal to anyone you’re the biggest defensive threat on the court.

Maybe you’re not ready to be the team’s all-time MVP, but you’re the best shooter they’ve got. You would be standing with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, and Patrick Ewing by donning No. 33. Don’t be surprised if the big men on the court start swatting at you when you line up to shoot.

Today’s Stars vs. History

Many present superstars are outperforming the history books and established averages of those who’ve also worn their chosen numbers. Take Steph Curry, the now two-time NBA MVP, who is surpassing the other No. 30s in points per game, assists per game, and steals per game. If there’s any opportunity for Curry to round out his game, perhaps he’ll be working on his rebounds and blocks per game in the off-season.

Kevin Durant: Oklahoma City’s small forward and the NBA’s 2014 MVP. LeBron James: four-time league MVP and two-time NBA champion. They’re each performing well above the average of their jerseys, Nos. 35 and 23 respectively. In every single examined category, they’re riding higher than their peers, but especially in points-per-game difference. Each is delivering a double-digit increase over the average.

Yards, Sacks, and the Numbers on Their Backs

When it comes to passing in the NFL, and being a touchdown machine, we’re looking at No. 1. Both the old school (Warren Moon) and the new school (Cam Newton) are throwing an average 11.4 touchdowns per season with No. 1 stitched on their uniform. But if we’re looking at overall quarterback performance, those wearing No. 9 had the best combined passer rating, earning an average of 80.22. Congratulations to Nick Foles, Tony Romo, and Drew Brees!

Turning our eyes away from the sky and focusing on the ground game, those grinding out the most yards from scrimmage (569.70) – Chris Johnson, Marshall Faulk, and Adrian Peterson – all did it in a No. 28. Their running probably helped their quarterback from getting sacked by No. 91. Leslie O’Neal, Kevin Greene, Robert Porcher, and Cameron Wake were haunting head coaches with an average of 4.48 sacks per season.

Modern Day Gridiron Greatness

There are a few current NFL stars setting the pace for their numbers – for today and future generations of players. Take Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers’ quarterback and Super Bowl XLV winner and MVP: He threw 14.27 more touchdowns above the established average for No. 12s. He’s delivering so many he might as well consider a career with FedEx.

Rob Gronkowski – Super Bowl XLIX winner, Madden 17 cover athlete, and top-performing New England Patriots’ tight end – is setting new highs for the No. 87. In both receptions (+40.94) and receiving yards (+627.33), he’s redefining what coaches and players should expect from that number. Scarring defensive coordinators and being your first pick in your fantasy football league? That’s just an added bonus for Gronk.

Pitching You a Number

When it comes to delivering impressive performances at the plate, there are only jerseys worth remembering: Nos. 34 and 5. Kirby Puckett, David Ortiz, and Bryce Harper were chewing through big league pitchers at an alarming rate as No. 34. While these sluggers were producing a 0.294 batting average, the No. 5s were hitting 8.01 home runs per season. We can’t help but tip our hats to Hank Greenberg, Albert Pujols, Jeff Bagwell, and Joe DiMaggio.

And while pitchers might be throwing around Nos. 5 and 34, batters weren’t looking forward to going against the arms of Nos. 27 and 15. Hitters were praying to avoid Ben Sheets and Joe Coleman, No. 15s, who were striking out batters at an average of 59.67 strikeouts per season. Kevin Brown and Juan Marichal each were delivering a 3.36 ERA while wearing No. 27, making sure hitters spent more time on the bench than bases.

America’s Past (and Future) Time Performances

Major League Baseball’s biggest modern stars are finding ways to outperform the history of their jersey’s number, which is even more amazing when you remember the sport was founded in 1869! Three-time Cy Young Award winner and Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, is striking out batters at +153.06 per season over fellow No. 22s. He’s also doing this with a -1.16 ERA and -0.25 WHIP.

If someone knocking the ball out of the park is more interesting to you, look no further than four-time all-star and 2014 American League MVP, Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout. He’s scoring home runs at a +21.61 difference compared with his peers sporting the No. 27. He’s also driving more runs, +56.8 RBIs, when examined next to his fellow number-buddies.

Pucky Numbers

The jersey number that defines offensive hockey? No. 91 embodies the performances of several goal-scoring juggernauts. Steven Stamkos, Sergie Fedorov, Vladimir Tarasenko, and John Tavares were scoring 21.43 goals per season with No. 91 on their backs. This number and this group of players weren’t stopping with their claim to the most goals. They’ve got the most assists too, with 28.97 per season.

On the defensive front, No. 39 and those who wear it are reigning supreme. Both averaging a 91.23% save percentage and only allowing 2.46 goals against them were Dominik Hasek, Detroit Red Wings legend; and Nikolai Khabibulin, four-time NHL all-star and 2004 Stanley Cup winner.

Coolest Jersey Numbers on Ice

Some of these current hockey players skating their way across the ice are outperforming the averages, and rewriting the histories of their numbers. Eric Lindros, Brent Burns, Peter Mueller, and every other player wearing No. 88 are being shown up by Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawk and No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft. He’s achieving higher goals (+11.46) and assists (+21.02) on seasonal average than those who wore or are wearing the double 8s.

Peter McNab, Sandis Ozolinsh, Mark Recchi, and everyone else lacing up as No. 8 over the years aren’t holding a candle to Alex Ovechkin, Russian left winger for the Washington Capitals. He’s performing superhuman feats in the NHL, delivering +38.05 goals per season and +25.28 assists per season in comparison to all the No. 8s who donned the number on their sweater.

The Best Number of All Time?

If you’re truly looking at redefining greatness, or associating with it, in any sports, there’s only one number you should consider: No. 24. Across all professional sports – NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL – you couldn’t be wearing a better number. Whether you were watching them when they were actually playing, or checking out their highlight videos on YouTube, each of these stars kept breaking records and elevating what it meant to be a competitor.

They might have been dunking, passing, or assisting their way to change a game: Rick Barry, Bill Bradley, Kobe Bryant, Sam Jones, and Moses Malone. They could have been rushing or running into the end zone, or preventing a game-winning touchdown in the NFL: Champ Bailey, Willie Brown, Marshawn Lynch, Lenny Moore, and Charles Woodson.

Or perhaps they were zipping the fastball past a hitter or a batter rallying their team from behind with a grand slam: Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr., Rickey Henderson, Willie Mays, and Manny Ramirez. Maybe they were skating into glory as a shooter or a goalie: Chris Chelios, Bernie Federko, Terry O’Reilly, and Doug Wilson.

Whatever the sport, wearing the No. 24 might mean you’re a legend – or at least one in the making.

Worn No Longer

While there are great performances throughout all of sports, permanently retiring a number is the ultimate sign of respect. It’s indicating that no one will ever replicate the unique performance of a single, special individual. Teams, more frequently than the leagues, are retiring jersey numbers. However, two players through their impact on the sport they played were deserving of league-wide recognition. In baseball it’s No. 42, Jackie Robinson; and in hockey it’s No. 99, Wayne Gretzky.

However, when it comes to teams, there are certain popular numbers you won’t see players wearing anymore. In the NBA, players were commonly gravitating toward the No. 32 – such as Magic Johnson, Bill Walton, and Julius Erving – and it’s been hanging unused since their game-changing careers.

The Best Jerseys Are ...

Depending on the sport, and your definition of “the best,” several numbers might be important to you. When thinking about signing up your kid for little league baseball, or drafting rookies in your fantasy football league, there are certain numbers that are more commonly associated with great performances. It just isn’t always No. 1 for the first-class players.

Feel like a MVP by suiting up in the best producing numbers in sports history! Look no further than Fanatics.com to acquire the best and latest quality jerseys in the game.

Methodology

NBA

We looked at only players who played at least 71% of games for that particular season and only jersey numbers that had at least 10 different players who wore that number on the court in NBA history.

For MVP, we normalized points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals per game to come up with a value for all three combined. This gave us the most productive number.

NFL

We looked at only jersey numbers that had at least 10 different players who wore that number on the field in NFL history. When examining passer ratings, we considered only players with at least 100 passing attempts in a season.

MLB

We looked at pitchers who threw at least one inning and position players with at least 3.1 plate appearances per game their team played that season. We looked at only jersey numbers that had at least 10 different players who wore that number on the field since 1929.

NHL

We looked at only jersey numbers that had at least 10 different players who wore that number on the ice in NHL history. When examining goalies, we considered jersey numbers that had at least five different players who played in at least 40 games for a particular season while wearing that number in net.

Sources

Fair Use

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