THE NUMBERS GAME FROM 00 TO 99, WHICH PLAYER WOULD YOU CHOOSE FOR THE ALL-TIME SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ROSTER? NO.32 IS LIKELY TO BE HOTTEST DEBATE.
One of the first things O.J. Mayo did when he committed to attending USC on a basketball scholarship was ask for No. 32.
It was available.
"My favorite player was Magic Johnson and I've always worn it," said Mayo, who took the floor for his first official practice at Midnight Madness at the Galen Center on Friday. "He's probably the best player ever to play the game. He could do everything on the court and made his teammates better."
One of the first things Kevin Love did when he committed to attending UCLA on a basketball scholarship was ask for No. 42.
"Growing up I always loved the number because my dad (Stan) was best friends with Connie Hawkins when he played on the Lakers (in the mid-'70s)," said Love, who spent his early morning hours last Friday at Pauley Pavilion. "I have been wearing the number as early as middle school and continued to wear it throughout high school."
It wasn't readily available.
UCLA had the number retired in honor of former All-American guard Walt Hazzard, who played from 1961-64 (even though Don MacLean, the all-time leading scorer in Pac-10 history, wore it 30 years later).
"When it comes to UCLA, the number has a significant meaning," Love said. "When I was in New Orleans this summer for a camp, I met Walt's son, Rasheed Hazzard. In a total coincidence, Rasheed wound up being the coach of my team. I got to hang out with him and play some pickup games and developed a good friendship with him.
"He told me that he didn't know what to expect when he initially met me, but afterwards told me that he would be honored if I could wear his dad's number.
"Mr. Hazzard is the best for letting me wear it, I can't thank him enough and I feel truly honored. I'll wear it with pride."
A simple act like taking a number isn't the same as ripping a ticket out of a machine at the butcher shop.
Something that was created to help fans figure out who's on the field, court or ice can end up molding a character and determining a distinctiveness that goes long past jersey sales or retirement ceremonies.
The wrong person with a particular number can be accused of identity theft in some fans' minds.
Some athletes incorporate their number into their salary figures, because they're so superstitious. Others have it in their phone numbers, license plates or embedded in their jewelry.
You can admit it: You've played the lottery using the numbers of your favorite players.
With all the attention these two newest basketball phenoms have brought to the city, isn't it something to see that before their careers even began, they've already created a link to L.A. past with their numeratic selections?
Mayo may not even be the most famous O.J. to ever wear No. 32 on the USC campus. Will the Love connection to UCLA hoop history bring a three-peat, or present some intangible hazards?
Last summer, Sports Illustrated did an exercise in numbership, attempting to match an athlete through history who deserved to be attached to a certain number. We've tried some old math division: Who in Southern California sports history has ownership to the numbers 00 through 99?
Combing through the all-time rosters of the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Ducks was just a start. There's no way to forget the Rams and Raiders -- only when they were in L.A. Every sport at USC and UCLA was tossed into the search.
The all-time roster of Southern California sports history has to include soccer, Arena football, extinct teams from the USFL, XFL and the great Pacific Coast League teams of the past. Why not even roller derby?
Then the questions, and debates, take a nature course of direction.
Do those who've worn the numbers in recent years, with more media exposure, have an advantage over those who may have had Hall of Fame careers 50 or more years ago but may not have their numbers etched so much in the fans' memory banks?
Is there any doubt who deserves No. 22? No. 33? No. 44? No. 55? Let's not even hurt our brain on No. 99.
Does David Beckham's surge in Galaxy jersey sales make him our No.23 instead of the one-hit wonder Kirk Gibson? Or did the staying power of Eric Karros give him the right to it?
Does every Heisman winner or Hall of Famer automatically get his number moved to the top of the list?
Numbers don't measure generations, they also define the gaps for Southern California natives.
Who's your No. 32? That's easily the most debatable number around town. Sandy Koufax or O.J. Simpson, if you're partial to the '60s. Bill Walton if you dig the '70s. Magic Johnson if you prefer the '80s. Mayo is just playing it forward.
When you're at Dodger Stadium, do you notice as many people still united wearing No. 34 Fernando Valenzuela jerseys as when you're at Staples Center and there are Lakers fans who continue to divide loyalty wearing No.34 Shaquille O'Neal tank tops? What about Raiders fans who still rock Bo Jackson's No. 34, from his four magical years at the Coliseum?
Here's a double-digit twist to consider: Does Kobe Bryant deserve to have both No. 8 and No. 24 to himself? Is Marcus Allen just a runner-up at No. 32 (Raiders) and No.33 (USC)?
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll post blocks of blog entries (www.insidesocal.com/tomhoffarth) that cover every number. We'll give you our pick of which Southern California athlete we best associate with it, then add a list of others who've also been seen and heard in it. Then you get the chance to comment and cast your vote.
Down the road, we'll crunch the numbers and get back to you. You've got our number.
8 photos, 2 boxes
(1 -- 5 -- color) Clockwise from top left: Magic Johnson, Marcus Allen, Bill Walton, Sandy Koufax and O.J. Simpson.
(6) TOM BRADY
(7) JERRY BUSS
(8) JOHN DAVID BOOTY
(1) Sunday punch
- Tom Hoffarth
(2) The Pop Quiz
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Oct 14, 2007|
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