Jordan's arrival means 23, skidoo, for Legler

First Wizard to wear famous number deflated by news of `Air' apparent

Sports Plus

October 07, 2001|By Andy Knobel | Andy Knobel,SUN STAFF

Twenty-three is more than just a number to Tim Legler. It's a way of life.

At his gym, Legler always uses locker No. 23. It's also part of every PIN number or password he needs to remember. It's even included in his e-mail address. And yes, when Legler goes to Las Vegas, 23 plays a prominent role in his wagering.

"It sounds crazy, but that number has hit many times for me," the former NBA journeyman told Bloomberg News. "I load up on 23. It's become the most critical number in my life."

So, the first and most recent man to wear No. 23 for the Washington Wizards chuckles when he's asked whether Michael "Air" Jordan can live up to his legacy.

"I thought they already retired that number," said Tim Legler, who played for the Bullets and Wizards from 1995 to 1999. "I must've missed the memo."

Jordan, you might have heard, is coming out of retirement to play for the Wizards. He'll wear No. 23, as he did for most of his 13 seasons with the Chicago Bulls, during which he won five NBA Most Valuable Player awards and six NBA titles.

Legler, 34, is, shall we say, less heralded. He played for six NBA teams and never averaged more than 9.4 points. Nowadays, he's working toward his master's degree at Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

Legler said it's going to be weird seeing so many kids wearing his former jersey, even if the name on the back is "Jordan."

"I'll have to start carrying white tape with me so I can cover it up and write my name on the back," said Legler, who retired in 1999.

If Jordan's No. 23 is ever retired in Washington and raised to the rafters at the MCI Center, Legler said he'll take his two children there to see it.

"But I'll make sure we sit on the side that faces the front of the jersey," he said.

On second thought

When outfielder Matt Lawton joined the New York Mets this season in a trade from the Minnesota Twins, he was eager to honor his older brother by wearing jersey Nos. 1 or 2, which Marcus Lawton used while playing in the Mets' organization during the 1980s.

Then Matt learned that first base coach Mookie Wilson wears No. 1 and manager Bobby Valentine dons No. 2.

"I'd better stay away from it," decided Lawton, who chose No. 23 instead.

Tim Legler never played for the Mets.

Holy cow

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com notes that on the day that Billy Crystal's HBO movie, 61*, debuted this year, New York Yankees starting pitcher Ted Lilly wore the number (what else?) 61.

Lilly also took a no-hit bid into the fifth inning, only to have it broken up by the Oakland Athletics' Olmedo Saenz, who was wearing No. 9 - which, of course, was the number worn by the man who hit 61 homers: Roger Maris.

Big gesture

Peter Vecsey of the New York Post says Charles Barkley, the round mound of the profound, whose No. 34 was retired by the Philadelphia 76ers this year, "endeared himself to the Philly faithful forever by reiterating his plan to wear his Sixer number when inducted into the Hall of Fame and the House of Pancakes."

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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