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The Best Players by Uni Number for … Los Angeles

When we started showcasing these “best player by uni number” graphics, I immediately thought of reader Loren Southard, who in 2019 created a set of uni-themed building blocks for his baby son (which later inspired readers Eric Wall and Judy Adams to create building block sets for their own children). The square-grid “best number” graphics looked a lot like sets of blocks!

So I wasn’t surprised when Loren — our original block-head — decided to get in on the “best number” fun. He’s an L.A. guy, so that’s the city he’s chosen for his graphic. He sent along the following note:

My choices for each number reflect my biases: Dodgers, Lakers, Rams, and UCLA first, other L.A. teams only when I had to. I also found that it was difficult to fill out the higher numbers because we didn’t have a football team here for 20 years, which created quite a gap.
A few notes on Loren’s design:
  • I love the variety of colors. Definitely one of the most attractive “best number” graphics we’ve had so far!
  • Gotta love the double-decker FNOB for No. 85.
  • At first I was confused by the No. 68 “Chicken Strip” choice. Then I realized that it’s a Dodgers jersey from Players Weekend.
  • Is Kobe Bryant the first player to be represented twice in the same “best number” graphic? I think so!
  • If you enlarge the graphic and look closely, you can see that Loren included nameplate outlines for the NFL jerseys. I think he’s the first “best number” designer to include that detail.
  • I’m still a bit uncomfortable with the use of NOBs for players from the pre-NOB era, but it seems to be the choice that most of the designers are making.
  • The Vin Scully square is a nice touch.

Speaking of a nice touch, Loren made a printout of his graphic, framed it, and hung it in his son’s room. “It’s already helping him learn his numbers,” he says.

As for the player choices, I’ll let the rest of you quibble about that. Have fun!

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Comments (101)

    I don’t have a problem with NOBs on pre-NOB players because I wouldn’t know who the number represents without them. However, if one chooses to be period accurate in regards to NOBs if they make one themselves, I’ll go ahead and look it up. I might learn something about the more obscure players.

    For this project, names seem essential. Even if Norm Van Brocklin never wore a jersey with NOB, making people do the research to figure out who No. 11 is defeats the purpose of putting the list together.

    How can 15 year Ram, 14 year Pro Bowler, and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Merlin Olsen not be #74?

    The protocol seems inconsistent. Pee Wee Reese played 59 games in LA. If he is qualified, so should Gil Hodges at 14 over Scoscia and Duke Snider at 4.

    Nicely done, Loren! It looks great. Minor quibble more as a thought exercise more than anything, but I find 42 is an interesting choice for a player who never played for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Obviously, I understand the significance of it from a cultural and historical standpoint, but what about using his football number from UCLA (28), instead?

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    Not that Pedro Guerrero wasn’t a fine player for the Dodgers, of course, but I’d say that ties Robinson’ back to his Los Angeles roots more completely. It also frees up 42 to honor James Worthy (whom, admittedly, might just be my favorite Laker of all time).

    I honestly looked very hard at 28 for Jackie Robinson but in the end, Pedro Guerrero was my favorite Dodger as a kid so I went there…

    I get it! There are so many tough choices to make on a project like this. No doubt that Guerrero has a strong case to be on this list. I think he’s one of the most underrated Dodgers ever.

    Valenzuela over Shaq? Don’t get me wrong, Valenzuela was good, but Shaq brought the Lakers 3 titles. Fernando won 1 title with the Dodgers. His win loss record is barely over .500. I’d really like to hear his reasoning for Valenzuela over Shaq for 34.

    Yes, but Fernando means the world to the Mexican and Mexican-American Dodgers fans.

    I’m not from LA, but I’ve heard that back in the day, No. 34 was to LA kids like what No. 23 (Jordan) was to kids from Chicago.

    Yes…Magic is one of the 5-10 best NBA players ever. Koufax was great, but is not close to that level for MLB.

    Valenzuela over Shaq is defensible for the deeper connection to the city. If I were to argue for any other Laker over a Dodger, it would be Elgin Baylor over Kershaw, but that one is close enough that it’s hard to argue too hard either way.

    Koufax is absolutely in that class for pitchers.
    There was no way that was gonna end well either way. Each choice is more than solid.

    If that’s the standard you want to use, then a number of the Rams players on this graphic – most notably Eric Dickerson and Henry Ellard – would have to be removed because they played their careers at Anaheim Stadium in the ’80s and/or early ’90s.

    1. the title does say los angeles. not socal. los angeles. get that anaheim trash outta here.

    2. la will always belong to the raiders, and they only played here for a dozen years. rams have called the city of angels home for over fifty years, and they’re still playing second fiddle to the ghosts of the silver and black. aaron donald and the rams may have brought a super bowl title to la, but the raiders did it first.

    Because LA had a wealth it riches when it comes to announcers, I passed over 0 to pick a microphone for either Vin Scully, Chick Hearn or Bob Miller and went with Vin

    Since I’d say Donovan is a #10, Wendell Tyler fits in nicely for #26 (can’t argue with going with Kershaw for #22…Tyler’s number at UCLA).

    And while I understand ‘retiring’ #42 (though Robinson never played in LA), doing so overlooks James Worthy.

    I considered Wendell Tyler at 26…and wanted to go with Donovan at 10 but I also wanted to put either Ron Cey or Justin Turner in so I slotted Donovan in at 26…

    Seconding Donovan.

    Although I don’t think even the biggest Galaxy fan in history would dispute #13…much….

    Might as well have players like LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk on this list since you have a handful of Brooklyn Dodgers on here.

    No Bo Jackson? Really? As an LA guy, that’s egregious. Also, no Wayne Gretsky. Aaron Donald is fairly recent, but Gretsky is a legend.

    Forgot to add, but I understand why Jackie Robinson is on this graphic— even though there’s a bit of a uni-anachronism with having no. 42 on there when Robinson never got to play with the Dodgers in LA.

    Robinson was a very established UCLA athlete, having played four different sports there before going into Major League Baseball. He also grew up in Pasadena despite being born in Georgia, so in some respects Robinson is a native son of the greater LA area.

    Despite all of the other strange choices on this graphic, I think that Jackie Robinson being there in some shape or form is well-warranted.

    Bo Jackson has an amazing few years but there’s no way I’d go with him over Fernando or Shaq which was the hardest decision I had…I looked at Jackie’s other UCLA numbers but went with 42 …and I’ll defend choosing Donald because he was so vital to bringing that LA Rams Super Bowl win…

    Totally agree on both points. Gretzky over Donald at 99 is a no-brainer. Bo is a once in a century-type of athlete, and should be on this at 34.

    Along with Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella never played a game in LA. Newcombe and Reese were LA Dodgers for only one season. And this guy apparently never heard of Marcel Dionne

    Campanella was a fixture at Dodgers spring training for years and a valued member of the organization long after his playing days. Same for Newcombe. And I absolutely have heard it Marcel Dionne but I’m a die-hard Lakers fan and love Pau Gasol more.

    I have to give another shout out to Paul for sharing the Chicago graphic that started this whole thing off. It was a blast to pull together and even better to use it in my son’s room. But let me address a few things:
    – The fun thing about this is that you could give this to 10 people and never get the same list back. I made some choices that reflect my own biases for sure.
    – As for 99…That was a tough one for me as clearly Gretzky is who he is…but for me, for LA, Donald brought the championship to LA that Gretzky wasn’t able to. He’s going to be a first ballot hall of famer and made the key plays to get to the Super Bowl and the win it. As a long-suffering LA Rams fan that made the difference for me
    – 34 – Fernando is a cultural icon. I love Shaq and that was the hardest choice to make
    – I included Angels players as I grew up going to both and I also didn’t have anyone else for 17, 27, 57

    Kudos to you, Loren, for defending your selections patiently and eloquently on this message board. But as you point out, this is your list based on your preferences and biases. You don’t owe an of us anything! :-)

    Cheers, I appreciate it and don’t consider it defending as much as having fun banter. This is fun and I knew that this great community would likely call me out on some of the choices. I knew the first comment was going to be: “Donald over Gretzky?”…and I love it…

    Having done one of these, I understand the difficulties, especially for popular numbers in the 20’s-30’s that get used by all 4 sports. You just gotta go with the best you can.

    I agree with 99 being Donald too. Gretzky was great, but his best years came in Edmonton where, like you stated, he was able to win the cup.

    Aaron Donald will go down as one of the best to ever play in the NFL

    Sandy Koufax merits being in there at no. 32, even above the great Magic Johnson.

    I really like that the group includes several other players from the Brooklyn Dodgers, including Reese, who played only one year in L.A., and Robinson and Campanella, who never played in L.A.  So the concept includes the Dodgers’ entire history. Therefore, I must question the absence of Hodges (no. 14) and Snider (no. 4).

    I like it that the entire 1970s infield of Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey made it.  But I’m not sure about the omission of their teammate Sutton (no. 20).

    Hard to argue with most of these, but only 2 LA Kings?!? No Anaheim Ducks? A lot of rich sports history and great players in LA, but Aaron Donald over Wayne Gretzky? Kobe is already listed at 24, so why not Selanne at 8?

    I definitely wanted more Kings players but some tough choices with Brown 23, Quick 32, Doughty 8 and Dionne 16 all sharing numbers with guys I just liked better…

    It was an aesthetic choice and I went back and forth but I had a lot of Rams and wanted to mix it up. I knew it wouldn’t be too popular of a choice…

    For those of you advocating Shaq or Bo for #34, so noted, but speaking as someone who grew up in the SoCal area in the ‘70s and ‘80s, people need to understand the hold Fernando Valenzuela had on the area during his rookie year of ’81 and through the early to mid-80s. He may not make the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he one of the most famous and influential athletes in LA history. So he definitely deserves his spot on the graphic, and I’m not even a Dodger fan, so I speak objectively.

    Kenley Jansen over Merlin Olsen? Not even close. Merlin is in the HOF. Jansen will never make it.
    Tom Fears wore both 55 and 80 as a HOF wideout for the Rams. I agree with Hersheiser for 55 but Henry Ellard over Tom Fears? No way.

    What I really like about this site and the community is the knowledge you can get from the readers and you’re right, Tom Fears is an absolute oversight and blind spot. I grew up in the 80s and remember Ellard being in the guy and he in fact caught a touchdown in the first Rams game my dad took me to..

    Gretzky may have fallen short of a Stanley Cup win in Los Angeles, but his presence on the Kings transcended Los Angeles and meant a TON for the NHL. That, and he broke Gordie Howe’s points and goals records in LA.

    Donald’s a great player, but I wouldn’t call him a transcendent talent near the level Gretzky was.

    By that metric, there aren’t many players that can match up to Gretzky but his best years did come when he was in Edmonton. If he brought a cup to LA, that would be a different story imo.

    I totally respect where you are coming from but I do believe that when all is said and done Donald will be one of the best to ever play his position. I am a long suffering Rams fan that grew up watching some bad Rams teams. Donald made the vital plays to deliver the Lombardi so he will always have a special place for me.

    Got to include Koufax somehow. I love Magic but Sandy was emblematic of LA before he came along.

    If/when this list is done for San Francisco/Oakland, does Randy Cross become the #51 on that list as well? I can’t think of a Warrior/Giant/Athletic/Seal/Raider/USF BBall who would be better.

    Would be interesting to see how many players get on one list for college and on another for pro.

    Vin Scully over Chick Hearn?! I’m just kiddin lol. RIP to both GOATs. As an LA native, this is so dope!

    There needs to be a better way to separate the LA Kings from the Raiders. Make the white outline around the numbers more prominent. And the Kings used the old CCM default font, which had a diagonal bar on the 2, not the right angles used by the Raiders. (The CCM font is also narrower.)

    I’d put Gretsky for 99 instead of Donald.

    I’d also argue that O’Neal is a better 34 than Valenzuela

    Also, Robinson never played in LA. You could argue Ronnie Lott is the best 42 from LA…

    Absolutely!
    And 0 Trojans ‘til #71 is surprising…Dusty Baker over Charles White at #12 is another debatable selection.

    With you 100% , also don’t get why Davis is on this, not arguing his talent, just hasn’t done much here (Disney title I guess counts??). Better 3s, Curtis Conway, Keyshawn Johnson, Carson Palmer, but since you’re a biased Bruin I’ll give you Steve Sax. Fight On!

    Well, as it says in the write-up: “My choices for each number reflect my biases: Dodgers, Lakers, Rams, and UCLA first, other L.A. teams only when I had to.”

    And which Clipper in their long and storied history would get chosen?…Benoit Benjamin? Michael Cage?

    Look at number 26… he wore 2 numbers 10 and 26 so so I gave 10 to someone else. I grew up in Redlands where he went to high school so of course he is there.

    Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky Gretzky

    Aaron Donald over Wayne Gretzky?

    Remember: Gretzky’s number is retired LEAGUE WIDE in the NHL.

    No Ducks on the list. I guess was a toss up between Lisa Leslie and Paul Kariya for 9. Both rightfully deserve the honor. And you already know Selane isn’t passing up Kobe for 8.

    Probably also put more weight on players from a Los Angeles team than an OC team unless it’s someone like Ohtani.

    I definitely tried to find some room for some Ducks players but there ended up being better choices for the best Ducks players…

    Not that he was the best, but I liked Orlando Woolridge who wore number zero. Who do you think should get the 0th spot in LA?

    Also, if UW ever did one for San Diego, should 9 and 09 be 2 different entries? Because we know who’d get the 09 spot.

    This list is disgraceful from an “LA” guy. He is missing one of LA’s greatest sports hero of the early 2000’s Shaquille O’Neal. How is Shaquille O’Neal #34 not on this list? He brought not 1 but 3 championships to the city of Los Angeles.

    Serious question as an LA bred fan: does any other city have such riches as LA does for #32? Magic, Koufax, and don’t forget Bill Walton.

    Also, why not Nolan Ryan in competition with Maury Wills at #30? And yes, the Angels count as LA. Don’t leave out Rogie Vachon for that competition either…

    Two more: Anze Kopitar at #11 and Isaiah Robertson at #58. Better choices than Van Brocklin and Billingsley.

    I might throw in No. 38 for UCLA star Kenny Washington, who led the Bruins in total offense for three straight years and re-broke the NFL color barrier with the first-year Los Angeles Rams (1946) after their move from Cleveland.

    You could solve your No. 42 problem by using Jackie Robinson’s UCLA basketball number (18). And I agree with others – how is Merlin Olsen not on this list at No. 74. Just my two cents, which is worth no more than anyone else’s ,,,lol

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