View Photo Gallery: With 11/11/11 rapidly approaching, here’s a look at the greatest athletes to have donned that number on their jerseys.

Some are preparing for the end of the world. Others are on the lookout for the discovery of a new dimension. Many are eager to honor America’s service men and women for Veteran’s Day. And some folks (President Obama included) are getting ready to watch the unofficial start of the college basketball season when North Carolina and Michigan State play on an aircraft carrier in San Diego.

Whatever significance 11/11/11 has for you, the once-per-century numerical occurrence is nigh.

So, with that in mind, here’s a look at the greatest (and otherwise notable) athletes to ever wear the number 11.

Mark Messier — Six-time Stanley Cup champion (five with the Edmonton Oilers) played for three teams over his 25-year NHL career. Voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, he earned the nickname “The Messiah” for leading the New York Rangers to their first Cup in 54-years in 1994. (Recently completed the New York City Marathon.)

Isiah Thomas — Two-time NBA champion and 11-time All-Star with the Detroit Pistons. Coached the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks in the NBA. Now coaches Florida International University.

Elvin Hayes — 12-time NBA All-Star led the Washington Bullets to their lone NBA championship in 1978. His No. 11 jersey was retired by the team and hangs in the rafters at Verizon Center.

Norm Van Brocklin— Hall of Fame NFL quarterback who starred for the Los Angeles Rams and won an NFL championship with the Philadelphia Eagles. Nicknamed “The Dutchman.”

Joe Kapp — NFL and CFC quarterback originally drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1959 who led the Minnesota Vikings to Super Bowl IV, where they lost to the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.

Carl Hubbell — Hall of Fame MLB pitcher for the New York Giants.

Bob McAdoo — Two-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. Consensus first-team All-American at the University of North Carolina, 1973 NBA rookie of the year and 1975 MVP.

Larry Brown — Hall of Fame coach played wore No. 11 at North Carolina. Went on to coach nine NBA teams, leading eight to the playoffs.

Vernon “Lefty” Gomez — Five-time World Series championship pitcher for the New York Yankees.

Fritz Pollard — One of the first two African American football players to play in the NFL and the first black head coaches in pro football history. Led the Akron Pros to the 1920 NFL (APFA) championship.

Paul Waner — Collected 3,000 hits during 20-year MLB career. Nicknamed “Big Poison,” he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1952.

Sparky Anderson — Managed three teams to World Series championships: The “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati Reds (1975, 1976) and the 1984 Detroit Tigers to become the first manager to win World Series in both leagues. Anderson was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 2000 and had his No. 11 jersey retired by the Tigers in June (he wore No. 10 with the Reds).

Luis Aparicio — Hall of Fame shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles.

Ryan Giggs — Welsh international team and Manchester United star. One of the most accomplished soccer players in British history.

*Mark Rypien — Two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback with the Washington Redskins was named Super Bowl XXVI MVP. Selected to two Pro Bowls.

*Mike Gartner — Right winger spent 10 of his 19 NHL seasons with the Washington Capitals. An unheralded star during his playing career, Gartner was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001 and had his No. 11 retired by the Capitals in 2008.

Ryan Zimmerman — Washington Nationals third baseman, 2009 All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger award winner.

Larry Fitzgerald — Wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. Biletnikoff Award winner at Pittsburgh, five-time Pro Bowl selection and key figure in Arizona’s memorable Super Bowl XLIII loss to the Steelers.

Phil Simms — Led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl victories (XXI, XXV). His No. 11 was retired by the Giants following his 14-year career in New York.

Steve Spurrier — The “Ol’ Ball Coach” wore No. 11 during his 1966 Heisman Trophy season at Florida. Currently the head coach at South Carolina, his resume includes stops at Duke, Florida and with the Washington Redskins.

John Wall— Current Washington Wizards point guard wore No. 11 in his lone season at Kentucky. Led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2010 and was named SEC player of the year. Selected No. 1 overall by the Wizards in the 2010 NBA draft.

Manute Bol — At 7 feet, 7 inches, was one of the tallest players in NBA history. Drafted by the Washington Bullets in 1983 and played for four teams during his 10-year NBA career. Bol died in June 2010 of complications from Stevens-Johnson syndrome. (Wore No. 10 in Washington but No. 11 with the 76ers.)

Yao Ming — Another seven-footer, the 7-6 Yao was an instant international phenomenon in the NBA, driving the sports market in China during his injury-plagued, nine-year career. The eight-time All-Star retired in July.

Earl Boykins — At 5 feet, 5 inches, is the second-shortest player in NBA history. Played for nine teams over 10 seasons, most recently with the Washington Wizards in 2009-10.

*Your additions

(H/T Paul Williams, Matt Schudel)

Who did we miss? Share your favorite No. 11s of all time in the comments section below and we may add them to our gallery.

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