Seven. You know it. Well more appropriately…
If you were walking down the street in Colorado, and you saw a “7” jersey coming your way, there’s only one name you’d expect to see on the back, and it ain’t Joe Girardi.
Well, maybe if it was a Rockies Jersey. Point being, that there are numbers that are iconic in the city of Denver, the kind of a thing that you could only think of one player when that number came up. We’ll get back to that iconic number 7 in just a second.
Here’s a run through the number that make Denver run. While we could go through each and every number between zero and 99 to call out whoever was best, it’s really not about situations like this…
0 (or even 00) – no one
Colorado Rockies – 1 player; Colorado Avalanche – 0 players; Denver Nuggets – 11 players; Denver Broncos – 2 players
Of the fourteen players who wore some version of the “aught” in Denver, the most interesting may have been the Nuggets’ Orlando Woolridge, as much for his talents as the fact that the “Big O” had a big “0” on his jersey. And while that’s not nothing, it’s certainly not iconic, and you’d be just as likely to see and Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets) or Johnny Olszewski (Broncos) jersey in the mix, and that’s not what we’re doing. This is about the guys who the number simply belongs to. So, no zeroes. No ones, either, as Jason Elam might not have any more pull at Colorado hearts than Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (who also wore 3). But two. Oh, two…
2 – Alex English, Denver Nuggets
Colorado Rockies – 10 players; Colorado Avalanche – 14 players; Denver Nuggets – 1 player; Denver Broncos – 20 players
45 total players. While the Rockies Troy Tulowitzki was a hell of a player, and the Broncos Pat Surtain Jr. sure looks like an all-timer, the only person who a “2” jersey could belong to is only one to ever wear it for the Denver Nuggets. Alex English’s jersey is hanging in the rafters at the Pepsi Center because he’s an eight-time All-Star who was in the NBA’s top-20 for scoring all-time until just a few years ago, an is still top-25. English is one of the best to ever play in Denver, and if you see a “2” coming your way in Colorado, odds are good it’s probably a tank top. .
While we hope 3 eventually belongs wholly to Russ Wilson, there’s a lot of others claim on it these days until he lays waste on his vengeance tour. No one placing their stamp on 4, either. As a matter of fact, we really don’t get to flat-out ownership again until…
7 – John Elway, Denver Broncos
Colorado Rockies – 17 players; Colorado Avalanche – 16 players; Denver Nuggets – 15 players; Denver Broncos – 4 players
See? Not Joe Girardi (sorry, Joe). If there is a number you associate with Denver sports, there may be none greater than Elway’s 7. There are probably more predominantly orange 7’s around the world than any other Colorado-based jersey. Elway is still the paramount character of the paramount team in all of Colorado sports, with all the stats, MVPs, and Championships to prove the pedigree.
8 may belong to Cale Makar someday, but that day isn’t here just yet. 9 doesn’t have any takers, either. We have a decent case when we get back to…
12 – Fat Lever, Denver Nuggets
Colorado Rockies – 20 players; Colorado Avalanche – 20 players; Denver Nuggets – 16 players; Denver Broncos – 15 players
With 71 players having worn the number 12 across Denver sports, including 16 guys with the Nuggets, you’d wonder if this one truly “belonged” to anyone, but the Nugs finally saw fit to hang Lever’s number after a few other guys got to wear it. Lever was a force of nature in his time in Denver, and ended up a fan and city favorite for the way he embraced the town. If you see a dozen on the back of the jersey, odds are good that you’re seeing someone who loved themselves some Fat.
15 – Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Colorado Rockies – 16 players; Colorado Avalanche – 22 players; Denver Nuggets – 11 players; Denver Broncos – 11 players
This one may be a little forward-looking, as there’s another important Nuggets player that wore 15 – Carmelo Anthony, who was also a franchise-making star. But by the time all is said and done, and as he comes back from back-to-back MVP seasons, the gent who will eventually be the greatest Nugget ever to play is going to own 15 for the foreseeable future.
Three Nuggets and a Bronco so far. This guys biases are showing, huh? Well, not so fast…
17 – Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies – 2 players; Colorado Avalanche – 28 players; Denver Nuggets – 3 players; Denver Broncos – 19 players
Mr. Rockie puts the baseball team on the board in Colorado as only the second guy ever to wear 17 for the team, and the guy who would retire it. Helton was a multiple-time All-Star, Gold Glover, and Silver Slugger made first base his for the Rockies for several seasons. Helton kept the team afloat in tough times, and was always the leader in terms of both play and attitude. His 61.4 career WAR is so far ahead of anyone else on the team as to be ridiculous. If you see a 17 jersey headed your way, odds are really good it buttons up the front.
18 – Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Colorado Rockies – 13 players; Colorado Avalanche – 20 players; Denver Nuggets – 0 players; Denver Broncos – 2 players
It’s weirdly fitting that there’s no room between old college buddies Helton and Manning, as Peyton actually had to call the old owner of the number, Frank Tripucka, to get it out of the mothballs, as the Broncos had officially retired it. I’m not sure how many numbers are double-retired by a team, but the Broncos have managed to do it. There are so many orange 18s roaming the state of Colorado since Manning joined the team, and especially since he brought another title to town.
19 – Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Rockies – 12 players; Colorado Avalanche – 3 players; Denver Nuggets – 1 player; Denver Broncos – 10 players
The Rockies finally get a number on the board, as you can’t think of a 19 jersey in Colorado without immediately thinking of Super Joe. His sweater is hanging in the Pepsi Center rafters now after a couple Stanley Cups as a player, and one you may have recently heard about as a GM. The Captain and MVP has quite probably been the most influential figure in Colorado hockey history. If 19 is your favorite number, you may want to wait to break our your jersey until cooler weather. That’s a good thing, as the Avs have another iconic number right behind him.
21 – Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Rockies – 15 players; Colorado Avalanche – 8 players; Denver Nuggets – 15 players; Denver Broncos – 24 players
Would there have been a Sakic without a Forseberg? A Forsberg without a Sakic? Thankfully, the world didn’t have to know, as the partners in crime ushered in an unparalleled period of success in Colorado Hockey. While Joe was the brains and leader of that squad, there might not have been anyone with as much sheer unvarnished success as Peter Forsberg. A wizard with the puck, a speedster on the skates, with the body and strength of an NFL linebacker, Peter was the thunderbolt in the Avs back pocket.
And then? Then it got weird…
33 – Cancelled, due to a 3-way
Colorado Rockies – 3 players; Colorado Avalanche – 7 players; Denver Nuggets – 5 players; Denver Broncos – 28 players
Amazingly, three of Colorado’s four major sports teams have retired a player’s jersey who wore number 33. Which of them might you pick? The Rockies Larry Walker? The Avs Patrick Roy? Or the Nuggets David Thompson? As I said. Impossible. The trio of threes will simply have to cancel each other out for another day, but if 33 is your jam, you have some classic Colorado options… and if you need a Broncos jersey to round it out, you can always pile on Tony Dorsett. Weirdly it happens again with another repetitive set if digits
44 – Frustratingly, also a tie
Floyd Little? Dan Issel? Damnit. Come on, you guys. At least the next repeating number will be kinder to us in a few.
52 – Adam Foote, Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Rockies – 6 players; Colorado Avalanche – 1 player; Denver Nuggets – 5 players; Denver Broncos – 21 players
While it’s hard to shut out the Denver Broncos should-be-Hall-of-Famer Randy Gradishar, there’s really only one 52 you regularly see around town. If Sakic and Forsberg were the anchors of Colorado’s stellar offense, there was always one defensive stalwart across those years, even as classics like Rob Blake and Ray Bourque passed through. “Footer” was a stalwart defender, a terror on the forecheck, and a fan favorite.
55 – Dikembe Mutombo, Denver Nuggets
While Deke might not have retired from Denver, and had as many great years after he left town, he was the usher of one of the classic moments in Denver Nuggets history, and probably the most terrifying defender the team ever had. When you see 55 out and about on the Denver streets, give it a moment, as you’ll probably catch a solid finger wag in the bargain as well.
That’s all I saw, DNVR Nation. While there are jersey numbers all the way up to 99, no one left was an icon in my mind. Did I miss one? Is there a jersey number that’s as iconic to the scheme of things as anyone that’s above? Who is your favorite Denver/Colorado jersey to wear?