Can You Identify These Sports Legends If We Remove the Number From Their Jersey?

By: Jonnathan Chadwick
Image: Wiki Commons by Larry Maurer

About This Quiz

Numbers have been used to identify athletes since the beginning of professional sports. In sports like football and hockey, it would almost be impossible to identify an athlete without seeing their jersey number. The NFL actually has really strict numbering rules like requiring wide receivers to wear a number between 10 - 19 or 80 - 89. Quarterbacks can wear only 1 - 19, and every position has its own rules. 

NBA players can wear any number from 0 - 99, including 00, but the NCAA only allows single and double digits from 0 - 5 to be used. Since most NBA players went to college and they want to keep their college number in the NBA, it isn't common to see NBA players wear digits 6 - 9, but it is allowed.

The first number to ever be retired in all of sports happened in 1934, when the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs retired No. 6 for their All-Star Ace Bailey. 

The first MLB team to ever retire a number was the New York Yankees when they retired Lou Gehrig's No. 4 in 1939. Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson's No. 42 league-wide in 1997, and UCLA retired the number 42 for all school sports to honor Robinson, who played four sports at the school.

The NHL retired Wayne Gretzky's No. 99 league-wide in 2000, and the No. 23 is synonymous with one man and one man only.


The sports world is dominated by numbers, and the numbers on the player's jersey might be the most important ones. Can you identify these sports legends if we remove the number from their jersey?


Michael Jordan was drafted third overall behind Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie in the 1984 NBA draft and ultimately went on to three-peat twice and became recognized as the greatest basketball player to ever play the game.

Tom Brady lost two Super Bowls to the New York Giants and one to the Philadelphia Eagles, but won six over the course of his career and is still going strong. He was passed by every team in the 2000 NFL draft multiple times.

Jim Brown played running back for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965, so he technically never won a Super Bowl since the Super Bowl wasn't played until 1967, but he won an NFL Championship in 1964. He averaged 104.1 yards per game over nine seasons.

Although soccer isn't considered a major sport in America, it is the world's most popular sport and Ronaldo is arguably the game's biggest star. He plays internationally for his home country of Portugal, and also plays for Italian Club Juventus.

Larry Legend broke all the stereotypical assumptions of what makes a great basketball player and became one of just three players to win the NBA MVP Award three times in a row. He also won three championships in his 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics.

Jerry Rice is regarded as the best wide receiver in NFL history and he was even voted the greatest player of all time by ESPN. He won three Super Bowls for the San Francisco 49ers over 20 NFL seasons and set numerous records while playing.

Even though he played 17 seasons in the NFL and set dozens of records, Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl. He lost to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in the 1985 Super Bowl and was also the league leader in passing yards that season.

Charles Barkley fell victim to Michael Jordan's greatness in the 1990s and was never able to win a championship, but he is considered one of the greatest basketball players to ever play. He stood just 6'4'' but played like he was 6'10'' and he's one of the world's most outspoken athletes.

Alexander Ovechkin (aka Ovi) holds the record for most seasons leading the league in scoring with eight seasons. He won a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy in 2018 when the Washington Capitals beat the Vegas Golden Knights in five games.

The Women's U.S. Soccer team has been far more successful than the men's team and Mia Hamm has been at the center of all the glory. She served as the face of the first professional women's soccer league in America, and played in four women's World Cups, including the first one ever.

Magic Johnson is widely known for his abrupt and shocking retirement from the NBA in 1991, but he is equally known for being the face of the "Showtime Lakers." His stylishly fast pace of play led to five championships and a decade of domination.

Emmitt Smith was the cornerstone of the Dallas Cowboys during the team's height in the early 1990s and beyond. Along with Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, he helped lead the team to three Super Bowl championships.

Jerry West will live forever in the NBA because his silhouette serves as the league's logo. The Lakers great is one of the game's pioneers and is heavily involved in today's game in multiple capacities.

Sid the Kid came into the NHL with so much hype he was dubbed "The Next One." He was drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins and has lived up to the hype, leading the team to three Stanley Cup victories.

Babe Ruth was a rare player who could bat and pitch equally well and is possibly the most famous baseball player of all time. He played 22 seasons in the MLB, and when he went from the Red Sox to the Yankees, he triggered the "Curse of the Bambino," which lasted for 86 years.

Lindsey Vonn has amassed 82 World Cup victories, five World Championship medals, four World Cup titles and countless other awards over her storied career. She is the most accomplished and most popular American skier.

Cal Ripken's streak of 2,632 consecutive games played over 21 MLB seasons is considered one of the most unbreakable records in all of sports and earned him the nickname "Iron Man." He played shortstop and third base and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.

Shaquille O'Neal is well known for being an unstoppable force in the NBA for years and won three championships for the Los Angeles Lakers with Kobe Bryant and one for the Miami Heat with Dwyane Wade. He's also an actor and rapper.

Almost every MLB All-Star from the last generation was tainted by the steroid era, but Yankee captain Derek Jeter escaped unharmed. He was the rookie of the year in 1996 and ultimately won five World Series titles with the New York Yankees.

Jaomir Jagr played for nine NHL teams over the course of his career, served as captain for two of them, and is still playing hockey in the Czech professional league. He's the second-leading scorer in NHL history and is considered one of the greatest players of all time.

Florence Griffith Joyner won a silver medal in her Olympic debut and won three gold medals in the 1988 Olympics while running record-setting races. She started her career at Cal State University and retired shortly after the 1988 Olympics.

Peyton Manning played for the Indianapolis Colts and battled Tom Brady in postseason after postseason, ultimately besting him twice: once with the Colts and once with the Denver Broncos. He retired after his second Super Bowl win, but his younger brother, Eli, plays for the New York Giants.

Alex Rodriguez originally played shortstop early in his career with the Texas Rangers, but when he signed with the New York Yankees, who already had a shortstop, Derek Jeter, he learned how to play third base and became known for it.

Like every great athlete named Mario, Mario Lemieux earned the nickname "Super Mario" during his 17 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He led the team to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and '92.

The WNBA attendance rate and popularity is just a fraction of the country's major sports, but the league has come a long way since it first started. Lisa Leslie is a pioneer of the game and was part of the league since the very beginning.

John Stockton is arguably the best point guard to ever play. He holds the record for most career assists and steals but never won an NBA Championship. He played for 19 seasons with the Utah Jazz and teamed up with Karl Malone to create one of the league's greatest duos.

Randy Johnson is one of just 23 people to have ever pitched a perfect game in MLB history. His left-handed power left batters stunned and he was one of the most dominant forces on the mound the league has ever seen.

Over the course of 22 MLB seasons, Barry Bonds amassed numerous records, and his most popular and controversial is the career home run record he holds with 762 home runs. He took the record from Hank Aaron, who held the record for 33 years.

Mark Messier is a 15-time NHL All-Star, six-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time NHL MVP and served as team captain on two different championship-winning teams. Simply put, he's considered one of the greatest players to take the ice.

Jennie Finch rose to national fame when she won the 2001 Women's College World Series as a starting pitcher for the University of Arizona Wildcats. She pitched for the U.S. Women's Softball team at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics.

There aren't many people who can play one sport professionally, let alone two, but Deion Sanders did it. He played 14 seasons in the NFL and nine seasons in the MLB and is the only person to play in a World Series and a Super Bowl game.

In 2016 Ken Griffey Jr. was elected to the Hall of Fame by receiving 99.3% of the vote, which was a record until Mariano Rivera was elected to the Hall in 2019 with 100% of the vote, which is a record that can't be broken.

Bobby Orr played most of his 12 NHL seasons with the Boston Bruins and is arguably the best defenseman to ever skate. He's the only defensive player to have won the scoring title, and he holds the single-season record for most points and assists by a defenseman.

Grete Waitz is a marathon running legend who won two London Marathons, silver at the 1984 Olympics, gold at the 1983 World Championships and a world-record nine New York City Marathons. She became the first woman to run a marathon under two and a half hours in 1979.

Oscar Robertson was the only player to average a triple-double for an entire NBA season for decades until Russell Westbrook did it thrice. Today a triple-double isn't an incredible feat, but a quadruple-double is. It's only happened four times in history.

Legendary football coaches Bill Belichick and Bill Parcels both agree that Lawrence Taylor is the best defensive player the NFL has ever seen. He is famously known for breaking Joe Theismann's leg and ending his career during a tackle in 1985.

Wayne Gretzky won four Stanley Cup championships over 20 NHL seasons and is known around the world as the greatest hockey player of all time. His waiting period for induction to the Hall of Fame was waived and he was inducted as soon as he retired. His No. 99 is the only NHL number retired league-wide.

Usain Bolt's competition number changes depending on the competition, and sometimes his bib simply reads "Bolt," but he is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world with or without his bib. He has eight Olympic gold medals and 23 gold medals overall.

Ken Griffey Jr. spent most of his 22 MLB seasons with the Seattle Mariners, and although he never won a World Series, he was a 13-time All-Star and led the American League in home runs four times. His daring play at center field led to career-hindering injuries.

Gordie Howe played so much hockey that his nickname is "Mr. Hockey." He played in 23 NHL All-Star games, won six MVP Awards, led the league in points six times, led the league in goals five times, and won four Stanley Cup championships.

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