The number 13 is synonymous with bad luck and superstition – but some sports stars over the years have made the number their own.
The fear of the number 13 is known medically as triskaidekaphobia and is thought to originate from Norse mythology about 12 gods having a dinner party in Valhalla with the trickster god Loki arriving as the 13th guest.
Later on, English language sources trace the phobia back to Jesus and the 12 disciples – Judas was the 13th guest to sit at the table.
Generally, few sports stars adopt the number 13 due to those fears.
In football, it is widely used for the substitute goalkeeper while when Formula One cars were numbered in order, the number 13 was always skipped.
Nevertheless, many have had successful careers with the unlucky number on their backs.
Marino Flying the Number 13 Flag
The most famous example is probably NFL legend Dan Marino, whose number 13 shirt was retired by the Miami Dolphins in 2000.
Even though he was never part of a Super Bowl-winning team, he is widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks the game has ever produced and held many records upon his retirement in 1999.
Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain is another whose career was a huge success despite sporting the number 13 jersey.
The giant centre was a two-time NBA champion, winning with the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Like Marino, Chamberlain was regarded as an iconic hero in his sport and is the only player to average at least 30 points over the course of his entire career.
Chamberlain is not the only NBA star to have donned the 13 shirt, with 10-time all-star James Harden having worn the shirt during his time with both the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets.
Football Has Number 13 Success Stories
Football has also had its fair share of brilliant 13s whose careers have belied the supposed misfortune of the number.
Alessandro Nesta was one of the classiest defenders to ever grace the game and he picked up title after title at both Lazio and AC Milan.
Known for his calmness under pressure and ability to read the game, Nesta won two Champions League titles as well as numerous Scudetto’s during his time in Serie A, while he was also a part of the Italy squad that won the 2006 World Cup.
Germany Love the Number 13
Michael Ballack was also a superstar of football and he performed to a high level in both Germany and England.
Ballack won the Bundesliga three times with Bayern Munich and the Premier League once with Chelsea, and made a career of being a goal scoring midfielder.
In fact, Germany, in general, seems to have a good relationship with the number 13 as the Mullers – Gerd and Thomas have proved.
Both have been terrific successes for their country with Gerd netting 68 goals in 62 caps for West Germany – winning the Golden Boot at the 1970 World Cup with ten goals in six matches.
Thomas meanwhile replicated his namesake 40 years later when winning the Golden Boot in South Africa – his first World Cup.
The Bayern Munich attacker has scored 42 goals in 110 caps for Germany but has always had a knack of popping up when it really matters, scoring five in their triumphant 2014 World Cup campaign in Brazil.
So even though 13 is a number that is irrationally shunned by many, these players have proven in their respective sports over the years that it can bring some good fortune as well.