Numbers can become iconic. If a number is associated with a player for long enough, it becomes part of the brand. Teams retire numbers. Numbers make you great. Numbers are probably most important in basketball, if only because there are only five people on the court at a given time. Basketball jersey numbers are memorable, splashed across the backs of the greatest players who ever stepped onto the court.
Basketball jersey numbers range from infamous 00s to 99s, and so many numbers in between have become iconic. In this post, we’re going to check out the most used college basketball jersey numbers and colors.
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Famous and Common Basketball Jersey Numbers
Numbers and teamwork have an interesting relationship in sports history. While every team loves wearing their colors—and you love it too, with awesome t-shirts—teams haven’t always worn numbers. But numbers are really useful when it comes to basketball, because that’s how you identify the number of fouls and keep stats for the game. While you might not lose track of a famous player, it’s helpful to remember which one of the inevitable college basketball twins (there have been a lot) made the flagrant foul.
Many pros keep the number that they had in college. And hey, many college players are just carrying on some traditions that started in high school. When players get to college, keeping the same numbers all the way through to the pros is a sign of a legacy. It means you pull some weight, and you’ve got the skills.
As we’ll get into below, rules recently changed so that players can’t wear 6, 7, 8, or 9, making it easier for refs to call fouls. But then again, some of the greatest college players of all time wouldn’t get their numbers in that case.
Most Popular Basketball Jersey Colors
College fans are ready to toss on a team sweatshirt, no matter what color it is, and support their team’s color choices. You might secretly hope that your team wasn’t orange, but what can you do but cheer louder and hope that you get respect from wins, not colors?
Luckily, there’s some awesome data on the March Madness tournament by the colors, so we can get some great data on the average college sports team. Since the tournament expanded to a full 64 teams in 1985, there have been a total of 295 different schools that have been to the big dance at least once. Of those 295 teams, 100 of them registered as a primary color of red. That means that over 33% of the colors of teams that have gone to March Madness have been red. The second primary color is blue, represented by a dominant 83 teams. Then the stats begin to drop off. Green comes in third with 33, so sorry Oregon Ducks, while you may have plenty of really awesome uniforms, you’re in a less popular color bracket.
From there, the colors really begin to fall off. Orange has 20, purple has 19, yellow has 18, black has 16, and brown has 6. Part of why you think brown teams are so ugly is because they rarely pop up! And then again, brown is just so easy to target for our list of the worst college basketball uniforms of all time.
Okay, so red and blue are the most popular jersey colors, at least among winning March Madness basketball teams. But which colors get the most wins? Luckily, the data isn’t done. Win percentages by different team colors:
- Blue: 57.2%
- Orange: 54.8%
- Yellow: 51.5%
- Red: 46.5%
- Green: 44.7%
- Purple 36.3%
- Black 35.9%
- Brown 23.3%
So if you’re picking teams that are going to go above 50% in the tournament, stick to blue, orange, and yellow. If you need an extra trick for deciding between close calls while filling out a march madness bracket, that’s a great strategy. Unsurprisingly, just because of overwhelming numbers, blue teams have won the championship 21 times and red teams have won the championship 7 times. Black, purple, and brown have not won a championship.
Most of the data above makes sense. After all, blue has a bunch of teams in the tournament. They are going to win a higher percentage of games and championships. But why is red slacking off? Red has the most teams in the tournament, and yet they’re not even in second when it comes to winning percentages. They’ve got the most opportunities to win games because they are in the most games—and since the tournament is single-elimination, that really matters. But orange, with only 20 teams, has only 4 more teams than black but has almost a 20% increase in winning? Pick orange for your bracket.
Basketball Jersey Number Rules
Basketball Jersey Numbers Allowed
There are some numbers that no college basketball player is allowed to wear anymore. If you watch a college game, you’ll notice that no players on the field will wear 6, 7, 8, or 9. In any of the digits, you can’t wear those numbers. That means that you won’t see any number 6s, but it also means that you won’t see 16 or 46. Why? Well, it has to do with the way that NCAA officials use their hands to signal player numbers. Since the whole reason that we have numbered jerseys is to make communication between officials and scorekeepers easy, and to make sure that we can reference particular players, certain digits make this hard to do. The NCAA rule book even lists the official numbers that you can have, ranging from 00 to 55, without any 6, 7, 8, or 9 numbers in between.
Of course, that’s creating bigger problems in college basketball. While the average team may only dress like 15 people for a game, the average college has a bunch of retired numbers, meaning you can’t use certain digits in the first place. Go to any college basketball website—and you’ll see plenty of retired numbers from your favorite team. This reduces the number of numbers that can be used, which is why you’ll see so many 0s and 00s all over the place.
Basketball Jersey Number Size
The NCAA rule book specifies that the numbers need to use a solid color that is easily seen. The numbers have to be at least a half foot-high on the back and 4 inches high on the front. They have to be at least 1 inch wide. If they have a border, it can be no more than half an inch.
While 0s and 00s are both popular, teams are only allowed to use either the 0 or the 00. Apparently, if the number is mathematically the same, it can’t really be used. And of course, you can’t have two players on the same team using the same number.
Basketball Jersey Number Placement
The NCAA rule book is full of interesting rules, that make you wonder if a violation caused the rule to be put into place. (We looked for this one and couldn’t find anything—but the NCAA rule book specifies that “arabic numbers” must be put on the front and back of the jersey, basically prohibiting an alternative numbering solution, like Roman numerals or tally marks. Numbers have to be put on both the front and back of the jerseys—and they have to be old fashioned arabic numbers.