- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Wednesday is 12/12/12, which is a bad time to place money on the No. 12, because even in the unlikely event that you win, you’ll just have to share the pot with everyone else who had the same idea.
Instead, better to pause a moment and smile while you recall all the great players who proudly wore the No. 12, as well as those who continue to wear it.
To spur the happy memories, here is our top 12 No. 12s, with the rankings based on how long the players wore the number, how well they performed while wearing it and the lasting fame they achieved. (If the list seems heavily weighted toward football players, it is -- No. 12 is a favorite for quarterbacks.)
12. John Brodie: He wore No. 12 for 17 seasons as the San Francisco 49ers quarterback and was third on the career list for passing yards when he retired. He never won a Super Bowl, but he did win a Senior PGA tournament after he retired from football. Surprisingly, Brodie is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but even more surprisingly, he is in the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame even though he is white. Seriously. You can look it up.
11. Jim Kelly: The Hall of Famer played two seasons with the USFL’s Houston Gamblers, but is best known for his career with the Buffalo Bills. Kelly is the only player in Bills history to have his number retired, an honor due to guiding Buffalo to four consecutive losses in the Super Bowl.
10. Bob Griese: An All-America quarterback and kicker at Purdue, Griese therefore would have been the undisputed No. 1 pick in your 1967 fantasy draft. His claim to fame is quarterbacking the Dolphins to their perfect 1972 season, thereby providing a reason for reporters to call Mercury Morris for a quote late each season.
9. Ken Stabler: After following Joe Namath at Alabama, Stabler led the Oakland Raiders to their first Super Bowl championship, was the 1974 MVP and a four-time All-Pro. He also recorded the No. 1 hits, “Lucille” and “Coward of the County.” No, wait. Was it Kenny Rogers who beat the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl? I always get those two guys mixed up.
8. Dwight Howard: The great center went directly from high school to the NBA, playing all 82 games his rookie season en route to becoming one of the game’s all-time great rebounders. He won gold in Beijing but is still seeking an NBA ring, now with the Los Angeles Lakers, who have been dubbed “The Avengers.” Which is better than Kobe Bryant’s superhero name for previous Lakers teams: the “Fantastic One.”
7. Terry Bradshaw: The four-time Super Bowl champ and current Fox broadcaster played with Lynn Swann, acted with Matthew McConaughey and sang with Paul McCartney, though as you might have heard, Bradshaw was much better partnered with Swann on the Pittsburgh Steelers' dynasty that won four Super Bowls.
6. Yvan Cournoyer: The Hall of Famer wore No. 12 for the Montreal Canadians for 17 seasons, winning the Stanley Cup more times (10) than anyone but Henri Richard. He also had one of my favorite names to pronounce when I was a kid. Ee-Vonn Corn-why-ayyy!
5. Robbie Alomar: One of the greatest second baseman in baseball history, Alomar played in 12 All-Star Games, won 10 Gold Gloves Awards and is in the Hall of Fame. And he owes it all to cologne. Yes, cologne. I was talking with Dave Stewart in the Toronto Blue Jays' clubhouse just before a spring training game one day, when Alomar came rushing to his locker. He grabbed some cologne and sprayed it on himself. When I asked why he needed to wear cologne to play baseball, he replied, “To play good, you must feel good. And to feel good, you must smell good.” That’s a true story, and it explains the Derek Jeter cologne. Sort of.
4. John Stockton: The NBA's all-time leader in assists and steals, Stockton wore No. 12 for the 1992 Dream Team as well as for 20 seasons with the Utah Jazz. The Jazz not only retired his number, they named the street outside the arena in his honor, John Stockton Drive, which is better than it being named John Stockton Back Alley.
3. Roger Staubach: He wore No. 12 at Navy, where he won the Heisman Trophy, then served a tour of duty in Vietnam before again donning a No. 12 jersey for the Dallas Cowboys. He guided Dallas to its first two Super Bowl titles and also popularized the term “Hail Mary pass” in the 1975 NFC Championship Game (a game that also prompted the Minnesota term, “Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph -- the ref screwed us on that pass interference non-call!”).
2. Tom Brady: Although he wasn’t drafted until the 199th pick, Brady has led the New England Patriots to five Super Bowls, winning three of them. He has thrown for more than 43,812 yards (nearly 25 miles) and 329 touchdowns. That’s not counting the 38 touchdowns he has thrown in the playoffs, but it does include his single-season record 50 in 2007. But by far, his greatest score of all was marrying Victoria’s Secret angel Gisele Bundchen.
1. Joe Namath: Broadway Joe was that rarest of quarterbacks, a man who won a national championship with Bear Bryant and also wore white shoes, a fur pimp coat and pantyhose (although not at Alabama). He also guest-hosted “The Tonight Show,” acted with Ann Margaret and Mr. T, performed on Broadway and had his face shaved by Farrah Fawcett. Oh, and he won a Super Bowl, too. (Though I’ve always found his “guaranteed” win very overrated. Like what was he going to say, “We’re going to lose -- I guarantee it!”)