The Best (and Strangest) Reasons Athletes Wear #0

Read about athletes who wore No. 0 or 00 on their jersey and learn some of the weird reasons why.


Zero is a special number—or is it? For centuries, philosophers and mathematicians have debated whether zero can be considered an actual number, since it technically has no value and is primarily a placeholder. So it's arguable that an athlete wearing No. 0 isn't wearing a number at all. (And "00" would be doubly controversial.)

In sports, players wearing "0" or "00" are uncommon. Most teams won't assign those numbers. Players usually have to request them, perhaps thinking that "0" or "00" will distinguish them and make them stand out.

But over the years, various players have sported a jersey with zero or double-zero, often for surprising reasons, and to mixed results. We've broken down some of the most notable players who rocked the nil from all four major professional sports leagues, and included some of the most entertaining reasons why other athletes opted for an aught.

RELATED: What's Your Number?

NFL  

In the NFL, Nos. 0 and 00 have been off-limits to players for the past three decades, with some exceptions. Only a few players wore the nil or double-nil in games before those numbers were prohibited.

The Best:

Kenny Burrough (No. 00, New Orleans Saints, 1970; Houston Oilers, 1971-1981) - Former wide receiver Kenny Burrough was selected in the first round of the 1970 NFL Draft by the Saints and played 10 seasons in the league. A two-time Pro Bowler, Burrough led the NFL in receiving yards in 1975.

Burrough wore 00 for the Saints and the Oilers. He now has a golf apparel line called 00Wear.

Jim Otto (No. 00, Oakland Raiders, 1961-62; Oakland Raiders, 1963-74) - Hall-of-Famer Jim Otto switched from No. 50 to No. 00 after his first season with the Oakland Raiders, because it was essentially a pun on his last name (aught-oh).

The offensive lineman was known for his leadership, dedication and determination, and he became an anchor for the Raiders. During the first part of his career, Otto played in 308 consecutive games, never missing time due to injury. He also competed in all 10 years of the AFL's existence, becoming the only AFL All-league center.  Add up his three Pro Bowls and nine AFL All-Star games, and Otto ranked among the league's best.

NBA

"Nobody wears zero in the league, so I may as well wear zero," Shabazz Muhammad said in 2013 at his first NBA press conference. As it turns out, Muhammad was woefully mistaken. The NBA has had a stronghold of "zero heroes" throughout its history, which continues today.

The Best:

Kevin Love (No. 0, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2014-present)After a long process of choosing numbers, which all seemed to be retired in Cleveland, former Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love selected the number zero for his new uniform.

"I went all the way back to my grassroots," Love said, "and my first number I ever played with." It was a tournament in Beaverton, Oregon. Love showed up late and "was the last guy to the gym for the tournament, and there was the 0 for me."

The three-time All-Star led the league in rebounds in 2011, and last year became the first player in NBA history to have 2,000 points, 900 rebounds and 100 3-pointers in a single season.

Damian Lillard (No. 0, Portland Trail Blazers, 2013-present) - For Lillard, the number 0 represents the letter O, and his journey, from Oakland, California, to Ogden, Utah (where he attended Weber State University), and now to Oregon. And what a journey it's been. After lighting up the college basketball world at a relatively small school, Lillard entered the NBA for the 2012-2013 season and played well enough to earn Rookie of the Year honors. In his second season, he helped his team reach the second round of the playoffs, averaging 22.0 points, 6.5 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game. He clinched the Blazers' first series over the Houston Rockets with a game-winning buzzer beater.

Orlando Woolridge (No. 0, Chicago Bulls, 1981-86; New Jersey Nets, 1986-88; L.A. Lakers, 1988-90; Denver Nuggets, 1990-91; Detroit Pistons, 1991-93; Milwaukee Bucks, 1992-93; Philadelphia 76ers, 1993-94. - Selected sixth overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 1981 NBA Draft, Woolridge was the Bulls' main franchise player prior to the Jordan era, leading the team in scoring. He was known for his transition game, prolific and superb slam dunks, his one-on-one ability, and his lob passes into the open court. Woolridge was one of the original alley-0op artists.

Woolridge wore No. 32 in college at Notre Dame, but switched to 0 (for Orlando) in the NBA. He wore No. 6 for a couple seasons—with the Pistons and the Bucks—but finished his career out with his old No. 0 standby.

Russell Westbrook (No. 0, Oklahoma City Thunder, 2009-present) - The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard's favorite number is 4, which he wore in high school. But that number was taken at UCLA when Westbrook was there, and in OKC, he chose No. 0, so he says, because "it's not a normal number….you go with zero when you've been through something and you are looking to get a new beginning. It helps you get going again. It helps you get the swag back."

After being named the PAC-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, Westbrook made three All-Star teams in his first five NBA seasons, and brought home an Olympic gold medal to boot. He helped lead the Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012, and today is generally considered among the top 10 players in the league.

Robert Parish (No. 00, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, 1977-97) - Robert "The Chief" Parish played in the NBA from 1976 until 1997. He holds the league record for the most number of game appearances. Parish wore No. 00 in high school and college, because, according to The Little Giant Book of Basketball Facts, at Parish's Woodlawn High School, "they ran out of [jerseys] with numbers on them."

Bill Walton once called Parish "the greatest shooting big man of all time." He was known for his high-release jumper and long, precise shots. Parish won three championship rings with the Boston Celtics and one with the Bulls. The Celtics retired his number in 1998. He is one of very few athletes across all sports who've had their precious No. 00 retired. (The Spurs retired Johnny Moore's No. 00.)

The Strangest:

Gilbert "Agent Zero" Arenas (No. 0, Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards, 2002-10) - Arenas wore No. 0 when he joined the NBA, but the number dates back to his time at the University of Arizona, where he was told zero was the number of minutes he was going to be able to play that year.

Olden Polynice (No. 0, Seattle Supersonics, L.A. Clippers, 1991-92; Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, Seattle Supersonics,Utah Jazz, 1994-01) - Polynice wore No. 0 on the hardwood with multiple teams. In 2012, he tweeted "Real answer is #0 symbolized no ending, keeps going and going. Selfish answer [is] 0 is for Olden, LOL."

Mike Bibby (No. 00, Washington Wizards, 2011; No. 0, Miami Heat, 2011) - Bibby's preferred number was 10, but it was unavailable and  retired for Tim Hardaway in Miami. So he just chopped off the 1.  Aaron Brooks did the same thing at Oregon, where he had wanted to wear No. 30.

Avery Bradley (No. 0, Boston Celtics, 2011-14) - Bradley started wearing No. 0 in college at Texas because he felt he had to prove himself all over again. He had to "start at zero." 

MLB

The zeroes started getting more common on the diamond in the late 1970s and have remained relatively common ever since.

The Best:

Al Oliver (No. 0, Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, L.A. Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, 1978-85)  - Oliver was the first person in the MLB to wear the single 0. Seven-time All-Star Al "Scoops" Oliver played in the MLB for 18 years, appearing in 2,378 games. The lefty finished his career with a batting average of .303, with 2,743 hits and 1,326 RBIs.

Oliver did not wear the "goose egg" until he was traded to the Rangers 10 years after his first season, but he then proceeded to wear it with five other teams.

Jack Clark (No. 00, San Diego Padres, 1990) - In his prime, "Jack the Ripper" was one of the most feared hitters in the league. Over an 18-season career, the 4-time All-Star finished with 340 homers and 1,180 RBIs in over 6,000 games. He wore No. 00 for one year with the San Diego Padres because he wanted to break a slump. "It's your basic non-number," he said at the time.

Bobby Bonds (No. 00, St. Louis Cardinals, 1980) - Barry Bonds's father possessed both power hitting ability and blazing fast base-running speed. The three-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner was a stellar leadoff hitter. He ended his career with 461 stolen bases.

Bonds wore No. 00 with the St. Louis Cardinals for one year.

The Strangest:

Miguel Tejada (No. 0, Baltimore Orioles, 2005) - The infielder donned No. 0 accidentally for one game while he was with the Orioles. As he slid headfirst into home plate, the "1" literally peeled off of his No. 10 jersey. Tejada finished the game with the No. 0.

Paul Dade (No. 00, Cleveland Indians, 1977; 1978-79) - Dade wore No. 00 with the Indians to remind him of how little interest he attracted during the free-agent draft. "I figured nothing from nothing equals two zeroes," he said.

Joe Page (No. 00, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1954) - Page wanted 11, which was taken, so he chose the nearest double number—No. 00.

NHL

Current NHL rules to not allow players to wear No. 0 or No. 00.  In the past, most who donned a donut were goalies.

The Best:

John Davidson (No. 00, New York Rangers, 1977-78) - Davidson says he wore No. 00 because his teammate, Phil Esposito, asked him to. Apparently Esposito (No. 77) didn't want to be the only double number on the team.

The Strangest:

Neil Sheehy (No. 0, Hartford Whalers, 1987-88) - The defenseman chose to wear No. 0 on the ice, because "talent-wise, [he's] furthest from Wayne Gretzky." (Gretzky wore No. 99.)


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