While the rest of the superstitious world believes No. 13 is an unlucky number, the Arizona program is not so irrational about the number.
One of the Wildcats’ top basketball players in their 12-0 season to date is No. 13 Nick Johnson, a sophomore guard. What better way to start 2013 with a victory over Colorado Thursday at McKale Center that would improve Arizona’s record to 13-0?
Only one other team in UA history started 13-0 — the 1931-32 team, which had a school-record 16-0 start before finishing 18-2.
Johnson is a significant reason why Arizona is unbeaten and ranked No. 3. He averages 12.7 points a game and leads the Wildcats in steals with 28 and has 35 assists with 21 turnovers. He also had the game-saving blocked shot against San Diego State on Christmas night that preserved Arizona’s 65-64 win over the Aztecs in the Diamond Head Classic championship in Honolulu.
Wilt Chamberlain liked to say his jersey No. 13 wasn’t unlucky for him but it was for his opponents. He was named to 13 All-Star teams and his No. 13 has been retired by five teams (University of Kansas, Golden State Warriors, Harlem Globetrotters, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers).
Other notable Arizona hoops players who have worn No. 13 include Ernie McCray from 1958-60 and Nic Wise from 2006-10.
According to the UA media guide McCray also wore No. 30 in the same time frame. He holds the UA record for scoring in a game with 46 points against Cal State-Los Angeles on Feb. 6, 1960. He also has the second-leading career rebounding average (10.8 a game) behind Joe Skaisgir’s 11.2 mark from 1960-62.
Wise holds the distinction of having the most games — three — in UA history in which he made all of his free-throw attempts in a game when he tried 10 or more. He was 14-of-14 against Washington in 2008-09 and 12-of-12 against UNLV and Lipscomb in 2009-10.
Wise, Kenny Lofton and Russell Brown are the only UA players since 1975-76 to lead the Wildcats in steals in three consecutive seasons.
The Wildcat football team has featured three of its best kickers in the program’s history who wore No. 13. Of all players who would not want to wear No. 13 would be kickers, you would think, because of the unlucky superstition involved in the number.
Place-kickers Max Zendejas (1982-85) and Lee Pistor (1974-77) and punter Sergio Vega (1980-81) dispelled the myth of 13 being unlucky with their kicking exploits.
Zendejas made 13 field goals of at least 50 yards and beat Notre Dame and Arizona State with late-second field goals.
His 48-yard field goal as time expired at Notre Dame on Oct. 16, 1982, gave the Wildcats a 16-13 victory in one of the best games in the program’s history.
He also made a last-second field goal at ASU in 1983 that beat the Sun Devils 17-15 and a career-best 57-yarder that helped beat the the Sun Devils 16-13 in 1985. That kick tied him with Pistor for the longest field goal in the program’s history and enabled the Wildcats to knock ASU out of a Rose Bowl berth for the second time in four years.
Pistor’s 57-yarder was at Iowa in 1977. Vega boomed an 80-yard punt against UCLA in 1980 and he averaged 43 yards a punt in 1981, one of the UA’s best marks in a season.
Zendejas owns a Mexican food restaurant near Arizona Stadium that bears his name and number. In my experience, you won’t be unlucky eating there. Try the shredded beef burrito with enchilada sauce poured on top.
Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner