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Uni Watch: Worth turning around for

Which players wore first names on the back of jerseys? Let's take a look

Updated: January 15, 2014, 3:19 PM ET
By Paul Lukas | ESPN.com

Ichiro SuzukiKoji Watanabe/Getty ImagesWhen Ichiro Suzuki came to MLB, he kept the brand he'd established in Japan that used his first name.
Last week, in honor of the NBA's first all-nickname game, we took a look at the history of nicknames on sports jerseys. Response to that piece was extremely enthusiastic, so this time around we're going to examine some other unusual jersey name formats.

Uni Watch

Remember, as we discussed last week, people who obsess over the uni-verse refer to a name on a jersey as an "NOB" -- short for "name on back." So the other name formats all have abbreviations that are variations on the "NOB" theme. Here we go, one at a time:

FIOB: Short for first initial on back. Typically used when there are two same-surnamed players on the same roster. You've probably seen this a million times, but here are some interesting variations and footnotes:

• At one point in the 1970s, the San Diego Chargers put the initial after the name, instead of in front of it. The Cleveland Browns also dabbled with this FIOB style (and as you can see, they included a comma after the name). So did the Denver Gold of the USFL. A more recent example: SMU running back Prescott Line.

[+] EnlargeTim Brown
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesTim Brown always wore his first initial on his back even when no other Browns were on the Raiders.

• The Cincinnati Stingers of the now-defunct World Hockey Association used FIOB for all their players. You can see how odd this looked by checking out this video clip (the Stingers are the team in yellow).

• MLB outfielder Reggie Smith always insisted on wearing FIOB, even when there were no other Smiths on his team.

• Similarly, Tim Brown always wore FIOB, regardless of whether the Raiders' roster included any other Browns.

• Finally, it's worth noting that a handful of players over the years have worn the first two letters of their first name, such as Texas A&M football players Marcellus Bennett and Michael Bennett.

FNOB: Short for full name on back. Typically used when first initials aren't sufficient for distinguishing two players. Here's a selective sport-by-sport listing of past and present examples:

FiNOB: Short for first name on back. Usually used as a promotional gimmick, much like nicknames. The most famous example is probably Ichiro Suzuki. Others have included Rocco Baldelli (he wore that jersey for only one inning, but it still counts), Vida Blue, Moe Drabowsky, Jay Hankins, Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld.

[+] EnlargeRGIII
AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III is the most well-known player to use a Roman numeral on his jersey.

RNOB: Short for Roman numeral on back. This category has existed for only a few years, as some players have started adding generational suffixes to their jerseys. The most prominent example is clearly Robert Griffin III. Others include Arland Bruce III, B.J. Catalon III, Fred Gulley III, Jake Harry IV, Acie Law IV (when he went pro, he dropped the RNOB and let his uni number stand in for the Roman numeral), Tommie Liddell III, Cecil Shorts III, Andrew White III, John White IV and Eddie Wide III.

JrOB and SrOB: Short for "Jr." on back and "Sr." on back, respectively. Another new category brought about by the rise of generational suffixes on uniforms. JrOBers we've spotted so far include Jackie Bradley Jr., Arthur Brown Jr. (FIOB and JrOB on the same jersey!), Chris Davis Jr. (ditto!), Tim Hardaway Jr., Roy Helu Jr., Duke Johnson Jr. and Mike McCall Jr. (the comma is an unusual touch). SrOB is much rarer, for obvious reasons, but a small batch of examples have cropped up, including Karlos Williams Sr., Floyd Raven Sr., Titus Young Sr., and Mikel Leshoure Sr.

McNOB: Short for "Mc" name on back. Used for any player whose surname begins with "Mc." Worth noting because there are at least three different ways to style the McNOB. Sometimes these styles are even mixed and matched on the same team!

DMOB: Short for diacritical mark on back. This covers accents, tildes, umlauts and so on. The Uni Watch archives do not include a comprehensive DMOB database, but some past and present examples include Pierre Garçon, Jeremy Grègoire, Olli Määttä (whose name must surely set the record for umlauts), Nenê (a FiNOB and and a DMOB simultaneously!) and Rey Ordoñez, among many others.

Those are the primary NOB variants. If some of them seem esoteric, consider that there are even more obscure categories, like SNOB (school name on back), TNOB (team name on back, not to be confused with TOB, which is simply "Team" on back), SOB (slogan on back), CNOB (country name on back) and PNOB (province name on back), but those are quite rare.

Of course, there's one additional category we haven't covered: NNOB. That stands for no name on back. It's not as interesting as all the others, but it has a certain elegance, wouldn't you say?

Paul Lukas has never worn FNOB, FiNOB, FIOB or any other NOB variant. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.

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