Whether it’s par in golf, the score awarded on balance beam in Olympic gymnastics, or the winning 100-meter dash time, sports is about numbers.
Today we discuss the numbers on the backs of jerseys. Here are the greatest athletes – across all sports – who wore numbers 31 through 40.
No. 31 A four-time Cy Young winner who won 340 games over 22 big league seasons, Greg Maddux was an artist on the mound. Honorable mention: Reggie Miller, Dave Winfield, Billy Smith, Fergie Jenkins.
No. 32 No other number has produced more top-end players. As the greatest running back and, possibly, athlete of all time, Jim Brown gets the nod over several sporting greats. Honorable mention: Magic Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Karl Malone, Marcus Allen, Julius Erving [ABA].
No. 33 Another loaded number, and another close race. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA championships, is the league’s all-time leading scorer and holds several dozen all-time records. Honorable mention: Larry Bird, Patrick Roy, Sammy Baugh, Honus Wagner.
No. 34 Walter Payton beats a star-studded field. Sweetness retired with numerous NFL records, including the all-time rushing title. Honorable mention: Earl Campbell, Charles Barkley, Bo Jackson, Nolan Ryan, Hakeem Olajuwon.
No. 35 The greatest lead-off hitter and base stealer in baseball history is Rickey Henderson. Honorable mention: Kevin Durant, Frank Thomas, Tony Esposito, Phil Neikro.
No. 36 Robin Roberts won 286 big league games, including six 20-win seasons, and landed in the Hall of Fame in 1976. Honorable mention: Jerome Bettis, Gaylord Perry, Meadowlark Lemon, Don Newcombe.
No. 37 Doak Walker is a three-time All-American, 1948 Heisman Trophy winner and member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. Honorable mention: Casey Stengel, Shaun Alexander, Lester Hayes, Dave Steib.
No. 38 The underrated Curt Schilling is one of the toughest right-handers in postseason history, compiling 3,086 career strikeouts while earning two World Series titles. Honorable mention: George Rogers, Pavol Demitra, Rocky Colavito.
No. 39 Several dandies wore this number. None was better than Dominik Hasek, who won six Vezina Trophies as the NHL’s top goaltender. Honorable mention: Larry Csonka, Roy Campanella, Dave Parker.
No. 40 Was there ever a more beautiful open-field runner than Gale Sayers? In a career cut short by injuries, the Kansas Comet amassed nearly 10,000 total yards while playing only four full NFL seasons. Honorable mention: Shawn Kemp, Rick Sutcliffe, Mike Alstott, Bill Laimbeer.