The Numbers Game: When a Legend Returns, Should he be granted his old number?
As an Arsenal fan, I am sheerly ecstatic about the return of the legendary Thierry Henry on loan for the next two months, and obviously, you can bet that I am getting his jersey.
However, I was led to wonder, Theo Walcott inhereited Henry’s #14 shirt after the close of the 2007-08 season, leaving Henry to choose a different number for the first time since he wore 17 at Juventus in 1999. Henry announced that he will take the #12 shirt, the same shirt he wore with the French National Team. Now this leads me to wonder, does anyone else think that in situations like this, where a legendary player returns to his old team, that he should be granted his old number? or should they have to follow the rules like everyone else? Let’s see some cases and decide.
There isn’t much better of a way for the man who was voted greatest player in Arsenal history by the fans to return. All Hail The King.
Legend: Paul Scholes
Scholes made a shocking return to Manchester United on Sunday, January 8, 2012, after retiring in May of 2011, and announced he would return for the rest of the season. Scholes old 18 shirt was picked up by new signing Ashley Young in the summer of 2011, leaving Scholes to wear number 22, which he had not worn since the 1995-96 season.
Verdict: The Ginger Prince’s case is somewhat more unique for these two reasons: A. He just left the team eight short months ago, and B. he has worn 22 before in his career, so in this case, I do NOT believe Scholes should be granted his old number back.
Legend: Michael Jordan
Returned in 1995 to the Bulls wearing #45 instead of #23 because his #23 was retired in 1993 when he retired.
Jordan made his triumphant comeback in 1995 after a failed career in baseball, but was forced to wear number 45 due to the “retired” status of his old 23. This did not last long however, as at the beginning of that legendary 1995-96 season, His Airness was granted his old number, and it came in handy, as the 95-96 Bulls had the NBA’s best single season record (72-10) and Jordan began his second run of three straight championships.
Verdict: MJ almost singlehandedly transformed the NBA into a massively popular and worldwide league, so he is completely justified in getting his old number back.
Local Legend: Ben Wallace
Wallace left the Pistons in 2006 in poor circumstances after wanting a larger contract, which the rival Bulls were offering, however, nothing changed the fact that Wallace was a dominant defensive force during his six seasons in Detroit and was definitely a fan favorite. After three failed seasons in Chicago and Cleveland, Big Ben found himself on his way back to Detroit, but his familiar #3 jersey was picked up by 2007 draft pick Rodney Stuckey. Rather than rock the boat, Wallace took #6. Being a Pistons fan, it was obscure seeing Wallace in a different number, but I did not feel he deserved to ask for it from Stuckey.
Local Legend: Hugh Douglas
In mentioning the name Hugh Douglas around Philadelphia Eagles fans, you will always hear a warm reception. The monstrous defensive end is still highly regarded by the Philly faithful to this day even though he is long retired. What some do not realize is that Hugh Douglas spent ONE failed season in Jacksonville in 2003 before rejoining Philadelphia for his swan song in 2004. Douglas was given #53 upon his first arrival in Philadelphia in 1998, and when he returned during training camp 2004, he found Eagles linebacker Mark Simoneau was wearing his old number, Simoneau gladly gave up the number for a new one.
Verdict: Hugh Douglas was an absolute beast in his first five years in Philly (51.5 sacks with three double digit sack seasons) so I would say it was a nice gesture by Simoneau to grant him his old number back for his final year.
FINAL VERDICT: Really we are split 2-2 here, Douglas and Jordan got their old numbers back, Scholes and Wallace did not, so really, I guess unless it is a true legend, like a Michael Jordan, there is not a huge reason that an old legend, whether league famous or fan favorite, deserves his old number upon his return.