LeBron James spoke out about his desire to see the number 23 retired from the NBA, even if it means changing his number. He has already picked his future number, 6, and has stated that he is going to start a petition and get every NBA player to sign it so that the number 23 will never be worn again as a show of respect for Michael Jordan and his status as the greatest there ever was.
At first I was confused and scared by the prospect of LeBron switching his number, mostly because I am a creature of habit. However, I have long been in favor of having Jordan’s number retired. And to be clear, it is his number. When you think of the number 23 in basketball, you think of Michael Jordan (then you think about Steve Nash). Perhaps recently you have associated LeBron with the number 23, or maybe Jim Carrey, but Michael Jordan is the true 23.
To me, this is just another example of LeBron’s awareness of the past and his respect of the game. For being such a young guy, LeBron has shown much humility when discussing past legends and titans of the game. Sure, he isn’t real humble when comparing himself against much of his peers, but then again, he really has 2 peers in the league (Wade, Kobe) and he may be better than both.
This would be a superficial move by LeBron to simply switch his number to 6 (in order to honor Dr. J who wore 6 in his heyday), but it would be a giant show of respect. It isn’t entirely unheard of for a superstar to change their number at some point during their career. Michael Jordan himself switched his number to 45 after he returned from his first retirement. Kobe Bryant famously switched his number from 8 to 24 after he struggled battling rumors and infighting on the Lakers. However, those switches were spurred by a desire to change the past. LeBron’s impending switch is spurred by a desire to honor the past.
Number 6 is the obvious choice for LeBron for a multitude of reasons. The first of which was mentioned above, his love and respect for Julius Erving. The second of which is he has played in the Olympics with the number 6, not his traditional number 23. In all of the Cavaliers’ practices and scrimmages he sports 6 across his back and stomach.
Of course, this has to wrap back around to LeBron’s impending free agency by the laws of the media and speculation. In order to comply with league standards, he must submit his request to change numbers for next season by March 5th, but only if he plans on staying with the Cavaliers. If he changes teams next offseason, he doesn’t need to comply with anything, as he will be allowed to choose any number he wishes. Great, more controversy about LeBron’s possible free agency.