CHICAGO – It’s a date that brings a smile to Chicago sports fan’s faces, and it has nothing to do with a moment in history.
It’s February 2, 2023, or 2-3-23, so naturally, a few supporters of “Windy City” teams took some time to celebrate a number of athletes who donned “23” during their time in pro sports in Chicago.
Michael Jordan – Bulls – 1984-1993, 1995-1998
Of course, “23” in Chicago starts with “His Airness,” who established himself as arguably the greatest player in the history of basketball during his time wearing the number with the Bulls. He made 12 of his 14 All-Star appearances with the team, captured five regular season NBA Most Valuable Player awards, and led the Bulls to six championships, winning finals MVP during every one of those runs to a title. Jordan was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Devin Hester – Chicago Bears – 2006-2013
One of the most electrifying players in Bears & NFL history, the returner left his mark in a number of ways wearing No. 23. A second round draft pick of the Bears in 2006, he would finish as the NFL’s All-Time leader in punt & overall kick return touchdowns with 20 (14 punt, 5 kickoff, 1 field goal). Hester produced one of the greatest moments in Bears’ history on February 4, 2007 when he returned the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI for a touchdown against the Colts.
Ryne Sandberg – Cubs – 1982-1994, 1996-1997
One of the most popular players in franchise history, Sandberg established himself as one of the best second basemen of his era while wearing No. 23 for the Cubs. He won nine National League Gold Glove Awards, seven Silver Slugger Awards, and was an All-Star ten times. In 1984 he was named NL MVP in helping the Cubs to the Eastern Division championship. Sandberg’s No. 23 was retired by the Cubs 2005, the same year he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Robin Ventura – White Sox – 1989-1998, Manager 2012-2016
One of the most popular players of a strong early 1990s era of the White Sox, the third baseman was a steady presence on the “hot corner” for the club, winning five of his six career Gold Gloves while playing on the south side. He was an American League All-Star in 1992 and the next year helped the White Sox to the 1993 AL Western Division championship. Ventura would wear No. 23 again when he was the manager of the club from 2012-2016.
Jermaine Dye – White Sox – 2005-2009
While he wasn’t a member of the White Sox for as long, Jermaine Dye left a historic imprint on the club in his five seasons. He was a key part of their 2005 World Series championship, especially in the Fall Classic against the Astros. He hit .438 with six hits, a home run, and the go-ahead single in Game 4 in Houston to help the White Sox to a 1-0 win. That clinched the club’s first World Series championship since 1917, ending an 88-year drought. Dye made the AL All-Star team in 2006 and helped the White Sox to another AL Central Division title in 2008.
Kris Versteeg – Blackhawks – 2013-2015
This is one of the more interesting choices since the forward wore a different number during his first stint with the team, sporting No. 32 from 2007-2010. When he was acquired in a trade from the Panthers in November of 2013, Michal Rozsival was wearing No. 32, so Versteeg switched to No. 23. He still had success, scoring 24 goals with 39 assists in 124 regular season games and played in 27 Stanley Cup Playoffs contests, helping the Blackhawks to a championship in 2015.
Cappie Pondexter – Sky – 2015-2017
The former Marshall High School standout had the chance to wear No. 23 as a member of her hometown Sky for three seasons. Pondexter was an All-Star in 2015 and played 91 games with Chicago, averaging 12.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and three assists. She was named to the WNBA’s 25th Anniversary team in 2021.
Nemanja Nikolic – Chicago Fire FC – 2017-2019
The striker was in Chicago for three seasons but made a tremendous impact on the Fire’s best team over the last decade. In 2017, he won the MLS’s Golden Boot Award as he led the league with 24 goals, making the All-Star team while also being named the MLS’ Newcomer of the Year. Nikolic’s efforts helped the Fire to the playoffs, the only time they’ve been in the postseason between 2013 and 2022. He finished his career with the Fire with 51 goals in 96 matches.
Christen Press – Red Stars – 2014-2017
Joining the Club in 2014 while also playing with the United States women’s national team, the forward had an immediate impact on the NWSL club. Press was the Red Stars leading goal scorer that first year and was named to the league’s second XI team. Press was named a captain in 2016 and held that role for her final two seasons with the Red Stars, making the NWSL Best XI in 2017.