12: Retired Leaguewide?

Todd Gurley’s tweet about the NFL retiring #12 moving forward has been stirring up conversations all over this week. While TB12 and the Bucs were living their best life on their boats and at their parade today, I was having this conversation. I don’t think that the league should retire 12. My friend does.

There are two numbers across the big 4 sports that are officially retired by the league. Jackie Robinson’s 42 in baseball and Wayne Gretzky’s 99 in hockey. Additionally, there’s an unspoken rule in hockey that you don’t wear 66 for Mario Lemieux. Upon Kobe Bryant’s death last year, many players came out and said they are unofficially retiring Kobe’s number. The only other number retired by a team that he did not play for is Michael Jordan’s 23 retired by the Miami Heat (???).

All of these guys have had their numbers retired for separate reasons. Jackie broke the color barrier, Gretzky/Lemieux are widely regarded as the two GOATs in hockey, Kobe’s is due to his untimely death and the impact he made on today’s players and the Heat just really really respect MJ I guess.

So why should the NFL retire Tom Brady’s #12 league wide (or why not)? I personally understand that he is the GOAT. That is unquestioned. But retire his number for the Patriots and the Buccaneers if they want. He played and is still playing great for those teams. He has won, a lot. He’s broken records. He is the model for discipline and mindset. The argument can certainly be made for him.

But being a great player or the current greatest does not warrant a league wide retirement in my opinion, which is why I’m not crazy about Gretzky having his number retired either. The NHL retired it immediately, the year after his retirement from the game. And now in 2021, we’re talking about Ovechkin’s chase for his goals record. If Ovi breaks the record, do you then retire 8? Yes he is and was the GOAT at the time of his retirement, but I think a league wide retirement should be something else, something that is timeless.

I have always thought of Jackie Robinson’s 42 as something that was bigger than him, bigger than the Dodgers, bigger than the World Series trophies. Jackie broke the color barrier in baseball 17 YEARS before segregation ended in the US. Guys like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, and so many more may have never even seen the big leagues if it wasn’t for Jackie. I know that there’s no “criteria,” but I think something like THIS should warrant a league wide retirement. Combine a high level of play with something bigger than the sport itself, make a cultural impact.

I would retire Roberto Clemente’s #21, Ted Williams’ #9 and Walter Payton’s #34 before I retired Tom’s #12. Roberto Clemente was the Latin American Jackie Robinson and died in a plane crash doing charity work in Latin America AND was an amazing right fielder with the maybe the strongest arm ever. Ted Williams paused his baseball career to fight in World War II and still smacked 500 homers. Walter Payton and his wife dedicated their lives to raising awareness for organ donation and as a result has probably saved thousands and thousands of lives.

I just don’t think that a guy who won a lot should have his number retired by 30 teams that he didn’t play for. Especially not a knee jerk reaction because he has the current records. Give him an entire wing in Canton, but the league wide retirement shouldn’t happen right now. If a player’s number gets retired based on records, I think there should at least be a time requirement for these records to be longstanding. If players want to have an unspoken rule out of respect, that’s cool too, but there are also guys who wear numbers out of respect for a player, much like LeBron does for Michael Jordan.

Again, in my opinion, a leaguewide retirement should be bigger than the game. Something that unites us as fans. You’re great Tom, but all you did was win a bunch.

What would your criteria for a leaguewide retirement be? Would you retire Tom’s #12 right now? Why or why not? Comment on this post, or any of our social media posts!

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