If you had to complete a top-10 of the uniform numbers in the world of sports, the number 10 would be near the top. It’s binary. It’s bold. It’s #1 of the double digits. It’s mathematically and linguistically powerful. Plus, some of the greatest of all time have worn the number 10.
Here are my top 10 10’s.
1. Pelé: Pelé is the G.O.A.T., the “Greatest of all Tens.” The name transcends the game, putting him in the pantheon of all times greats in the history of sport: Pelé, Ali, Ruth, Jordan, Gretzky. As with Ali and Gretzky he represents his country in a singular way, beyond international competition and into international relations.
2. Phil Rizzuto: “The Scooter” spent his entire 13-year baseball career with the New York Yankees (1941–1956). He was the heart of the Yankees teams in the 40s and 50s and the broadcast voice of the teams for many years after that. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994. “Holy Cow!”
3. Lionel Messi: This tiny yet titanic #10 has eight La Liga titles, five Ballons d’or, four UEFA Champions League titles and four Copas del Rey. He has scored over 500 goals for club and country. As the Spanish language call usually goes: “Messi, Messi, Messi, Messi, Messi, Messi, Messi.”
4. JoJo White: JoJo White was a college standout and a gold medal winner (Mexico City, 1968) before he entered the NBA. His was seven-time All-Star and a two-time NBA champion who averaged 17/5/5 over 12 NBA seasons. JoJo White stands as the prototype of the head-down, hard-nosed, hand-us-the trophy Celtics of the 1970s–for that reason, his #10 hangs in the rafters. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.
5. Walt “Clyde” Frazier: Walt “Clyde” Frazier has his number 10 retired by the New York Knicks, where he starred from 1968-77. He is a Hall of Famer, a 2x NBA champion, a 7x All-Star, and a 7x All-Defensive Team selection. Though it is impossible to measure cool, “Clyde” Frazier has to be at or near the top of that list with Willie Stargell, Russell Westbrook, Deion Sanders Michael Irving.
6. Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones: Chipper Jones played 19 season with the Braves, where he won World Series title in 1995. The career number are rock solid: .303 batting average, 2,726 hits, 1,623 RBI and 468. This number 10 represents talent, pride, dedication and loyalty.
7. Diego Maradona: The debate rages: Who is the best #10 in Argentina’s history, Messi or Maradona? The stat-line and star-power of Messi will likely help him prevail, but this does take anything away from Maradona’s legacy. As well-know for his “hand of God” goal as his hard living, Maradona has seemed to have not nine lives, but, well ten. He has been a domestic and international star, a manager, a pseudo-political figure and a pop star.
8. Ron Francis: A veteran of 23 NHL seasons, Ron , Francis stands second all-time in career assists (1,249), behind only Wayne Gretzky; fifth in career points (1,798); third in games played (1,731); and 27th in career goals (549). Bonus points? Francis was drafted by and began his career with the Hartford Whalers, hometown-ish heroes and owners of one of the all-time underrated logos in all of sports.
9. Fran Tarkenton: An all-time talent for the Vikings and Giants, Fran Tarkenton was a 9x Pro Bowl selection and the 1975 NFL MVP. At the time of his retirement, and in a league unlike the modern one we’ve grown accustomed to, Tarkenton held just about every offensive record possible. He was enshrined in Canton in 1986. After retirement, Tarkenton went on to an equally successful life as an author, entrepreneur and investor.
10. Tim Hardaway: Tim Hardaway ranks with Oscar Robertson, John Stockton and Isiah Thomas as the top point guard in NBA history. Hardaway recorded 5,000 points and 2,500 assists, second fastest in NBA history. Long before it was dubbed “Dub City,” Golden State was the kingdom of the “killer crossover.” His #10 was retired by the Miami Heat and his alma mater, UTEP
Sparky Anderson, Tony La Russa and Tom Kelly all had their number 10 retired by the clubs they managed. I’ll list them here and give them lots of love, but leave them out of the top 10.
Wayne Rooney [so close, and his milestone goal with Man U this week makes it closer], Ron Santo [pure class and a Chicago legend], Maurice Cheeks [I loved the Celtics-76ers clashes of my childhood], Steve Nash [would be up there, but he wore #13 mostly], Rich Gedman [still the first #10 to come to mind, and probably my 10 year-old self’s favorite #10] and Eli Manning [I…I just can’t.]
Who have I forgotten? Who do you have in your 10 #10s?