Athletes Who Have Paid for Jersey Numbers

Nick Dimengo

While most of us can admit to having some sort of superstitions or routines, athletes seem to have a hell of a lot more than normal folks.

One of those weird things is having a favorite number to wear.

Whether it's a digit that was given to them from the first game they ever had or one that's meaningful for another reason, some guys don't mind tossing cash around to ensure it's all theirs.

And some players aren't afraid to open up the checkbook either—just check out these guys.

Kellen Winslow Jr.


Number: 80

In honor of his Hall of Fame dad—who wore No. 80—tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. paid off his former Cleveland Browns teammate Aaron Shea an undisclosed amount to make the number his back in his rookie season of 2004.

Unfortunately for K2, his career hasn't been as successful with the number as his dad's was.

Clinton Portis

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Number: 26

One of the more consistent running backs of his era, Clinton Portis had worn No. 26 from his early days of playing football.

That's why he was willing to at least offer to pay $40,000 to retain it when he first got to the Washington Redskins in 2004.

I use the word "willing" because the transaction with then teammate Ifeanyi Ohalete wasn't as smooth as one would think. The two ultimately ended up in court because of Portis failing to pay Ohalete after he was released—with Portis forced to pay $18,000.

Mitch Williams


Number: 28

While this one didn't include some of the insane prices that other athletes on this list paid for a number, it did include two cases of beer, so I just had to mention it.

After being acquired by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1991, relief pitcher Mitch Williams coveted the No. 28 because of his wife, but John Kruk already wore the digits.

The price to convince Kruk to give it up? Try two cases of beer.

Kruk has gone on to say that the funny part about the whole deal is that Williams got divorced from his lady and ultimately changed to No. 99—though the two cases were long gone by then.

Lee Evans

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Number: 83

He may not be in the league anymore, but when Lee Evans first suited up for the Buffalo Bills as a rookie in 2004, he wanted to make sure his number was the same as it always had been.

That's why he happily handed $20,000 to then tight end Mark Campbell for the rights to the digits—which ended up OK for Evans, who enjoyed a successful, eight-year career.

Adrian Beltre

Tony Gutierrez

Number: 29

When the Texas Rangers signed All-Star Adrian Beltre to a big deal back in 2011, the third baseman actually had it written in his contract that he got to wear his lucky No. 29.

Still, for the kindness new teammate Julio Borbon had in giving it up, Beltre gave the utility player a Rolex for doing it without much of a fight and for being a good sport.

Tom Glavine

Ed Betz

Number: 47

After making a name for himself wearing No. 47 for the first 16 years of his Hall of Fame career, former pitcher Tom Glavine wanted to make sure he kept the same digits when he signed with the New York Mets before the 2003 season.

The problem was that Joe McEwing already owned the jersey.

That's when Glavine and McEwing got creative, with the lefty agreeing to pay for a baby nursery in McEwing’s home—which isn't too typical when teammates talk about trading jersey numbers.

Deion Sanders

Elsa/Getty Images

Number: 21

A Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl champ, former cornerback Deion Sanders was about as brash and confident as any athlete of the past 25 years.

And he was able to use that flashiness to make sure he wore No. 21 when he first signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 1995.

With then-Cowboys cornerback Alundis Brice already occupying the number, Sanders went out and surprised Brice with his dream car—a brand new, metallic blue, BMW 325iand a note by his locker that read, "Now give me my damn jersey"...which Brice happily did.

A.J. Burnett

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Number: 34

After wearing No. 43 for the first few years of his career, pitcher A.J. Burnett landed on No. 34 in 2002 and decided that it would be his on every team thereafter.

That's why the righty decided to actually set up his Pittsburgh Pirates teammate Daniel McCutchen with a college fund for his daughter in exchange for the number last year.

It doesn't sound like it carries too much luck for Burnett, but he was willing to toss a hefty amount in order to make it his.

Donovan McNabb

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Number: 5

Although he made his name playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, former quarterback Donovan McNabb endured one season with the Minnesota Vikings back in 2011.

Having quite the career up to that point wearing his No. 5, he had hoped the same luck would be on his side in Minny, as he negotiated quite the unique deal with punter Chris Kluwe for the number.

Donovan had to write a check for $5,000 to the charity of Kluwe’s choice, mention Kluwe’s band Tripping Icarus in five press conferences and buy the punter an ice cream cone—with McNabb failing on the band and ice cream cone agreements.

Eli Manning

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Number: 10

Wearing No. 10 after he was forced to find an alternative at Ole Miss—since the school had retired dad Archie's No. 18—Manning figured it worked well enough to garner him the top pick in the 2004 draft that he'd stick with it.

But when he arrived on the New York Giants, he had to convince punter Jeff Feagles to give it up.

All it took was for Eli to treat Feagles' family to an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida—which had to be less than some of these other athletes paid.

Rickey Henderson

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Number: 24

As you can see from this picture, Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is known for wearing No. 24 no matter what team he played for.

And when he got to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993, he made sure that that didn't change, paying $25,000 to Jays outfielder Turner Ward in order to keep it.

It seemed to bring him luck, as Henderson played the second half of the season in Toronto and won a World Series title that year with the team.

Eric Decker

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Number: 87

After inking a $36 million deal with the New York Jets, it's safe to say that the team's new receiver Eric Decker has plenty of cash to pony up to keep his favorite number.

And that's exactly what he did.

Although his financial advisor probably didn't approve it, Decker paid incumbent Jets player Jeff Cumberland $25,000 and offered a steak dinner to the tight end for the rights to the number.

Roger Clemens


Number: 21

When the Toronto Blue Jays acquired pitcher Roger Clemens as a free agent in 1997, the team was probably pretty ecstatic—especially after "The Rocket" delivered with two Cy Young Awards while north of the border.

Could that success be attributed to his lucky No. 21?

Who knows? But one thing is a fact—the righty paid then teammate Carlos Delgado $15,000 and gave him a Rolex to make sure he never had to even chance not wearing it.

Darrelle Revis

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Number: 24

He may not be on the team anymore, but after being acquired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the 2013 season, cornerback Darrelle Revis' first order of business was to lock up his favorite number.

There was just one problem—then rookie Mark Barron already had it.

With a $13 million paycheck coming after signing a new deal, Revis had money to spare and paid the safety $50,000 to make sure No. 24 was all his.

Michael Jordan

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Number: 45

Most of us associate Michael Jordan with No. 23, as it was—and remains to be—one of the most famous jerseys in all of sports.

But remember when MJ switched to 45 following his return from baseball in 1995?

With his usual No. 23 hanging in the rafters following his first retirement, Jordan thought wearing the same digits he did during his brief baseball career would work just fine.

Unfortunately, the NBA didn't agree, fining him and the Bulls more than $100,000 for the switch.


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