LeBron James has decided to switch his jersey number from number 23 to number six, the same number he wore for the Miami Heat from 2010-14. The official announcement came on June 9th, 2021.
Ironically, this move came only a few days after Pat Riley, president of basketball operations for the Miami Heat, was fined for breaking the league’s tampering rule, which in essence means he is trying to slyly recruit James to the Heat when he is not a free agent.
“I would leave the key under the doormat if he would call me and let me know he’s coming. I would do that, but I doubt very much that key… That key is rusted now.”Pat Riley during a June 4th radio interview
Many NBA fans speculate that James changed his jersey number because he wanted to play like he did as number six on the Miami Heat (he won two MVPs and two championships), or make lots of money from jersey sales because everyone would be buying new LeBron jerseys. However, James alleged reason is a lot more difficult to believe:
“You know, a lot of people say it’s because I want to be like my Heat days, but man, I just wanted to honor DBook [Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns] by wearing the number of games it took him to take us out of the playoffs. The kid’s next up.”LeBron James speaking to a reporter about his jersey swap
Are we really going to believe this?
I have a difficult time believing that this is the only reason why James switched jersey numbers. Is he telling us that if the Suns pushed them to seven games, he would copycat Kevin Durant and wear the number seven? I don’t think so, as it would make him look like a hypocrite when Durant wears number seven for religious reasons, as it is the most common number in the bible.
Do you really believe we would see James wearing number four or five if that’s how long it took for Booker to dispose of James and the Lakers? Per ESPN,
“Promotional materials for James’ upcoming movie, ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy,’ were released this week showing James’ No. 6 ‘Tune Squad’ uniform, as noted by The Athletic, which first reported James’ jersey change.”ESPN on James’ jersey change
So, James changes to the jersey number that he wears in the movie he made to copy Michael Jordan and make loads of revenue from? The same jersey number that he wore on the Miami Heat when he won two championships? The same number he wore when he won gold medals on Team USA and used on his practice jersey for the Cleveland Cavaliers?
This sounds like a bit too much evidence against him, even though James gave Booker his jersey from Game Six. One then has to think about what exactly James said in the quote above.
When Michael Jordan lost to the Detroit Pistons in the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, could you ever imagine him and Isiah Thomas taking a picture together and Jordan changing his jersey number to 11 to honor the man who kicked his a–? Jordan spent the following offseason working out with Tim Grover so that he could get rid of Thomas once and for all, and take control of the Eastern Conference. Can you imagine Kobe Bryant changing his number to 34 so he could honor 2008 Finals MVP Paul Pierce of the rival Boston Celtics? No! He also worked as hard as he could with Tim Grover (despite winning MVP that season), and then won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. James simply doesn’t have the killer instinct that the legends before him had. This could be his downfall, and aside from aging, the reason why he doesn’t win another MVP or championship in his career.
If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, I recommend buying Tim Grover’s book, Relentless. He gives an incredible, deep-diving explanation about what it takes to be the best at what you do, and while it was written a few years ago, many of its meanings and explanations of certain players are still spot-on.
Just to prove I’m not crazy, delirious, and babbling on about a subject most NBA fans won’t care about, let’s look at the history and lies of James’ jerseys:
2008: James plays on the second greatest Olympic USA Basketball team ever (known as the Redeem team), and wears number six. That year, the team cruises to a gold medal.
2010: James joins the Miami Heat, and in doing so is forced to switch jersey numbers, to number six. The Heat retired Jordan’s jersey out of respect for him, even though he never played for their franchise. James pretends that he loves what the Heat did, and being as egotistical as he is, says, “I feel no NBA player should wear 23. I’m starting a petition and I’ve got everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I’m not going to wear No.23, then no one else should be able to wear it.”
He also said, “I just think that what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized in some way soon. There would be no LeBron James, no Kobe Bryant, no Dwayne Wade if there wasn’t Michael Jordan.” There is nothing wrong with this sentiment, but it feels very hypocritical coming from the guy who has been chasing Jordan’s shadow his entire career and is doing everything in his power to get people to believe he is the GOAT. He believed in 2016 that after winning his third championship, he was better than Jordan! And did he really just say if I can’t do something, then no one should be able to do something? That sounds like a spoiled child! James wasn’t even in the GOAT debate in 2010, as he hadn’t won a single championship. Remember, James himself chose to go to Miami, build a super team, and became the most hated player in the NBA during that four year stretch.
2014: James returns to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and immediately switches back to wearing the number 23. Everyone now knows that James was full of it in Miami and that he only switched to six because of the jersey retirement deal. On his flippable practice jersey, James wears number six as well as 23, which he claims is a tribute to Deion Sanders, an NFL player who put his college number, two, on his practice jersey, but played in number 21 for most of his career. While wearing number six on his practice jersey for both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers, he wins two more rings, so you can’t say he doesn’t have good memories with the number six. Did I mention James never went to college?
2019: James attempts to recruit Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers. Whether getting to keep number 23 is part of the deal in trying to recruit Davis to the Lakers is unclear, but James publicly promises that for the 2019-20 season, Davis will get to wear 23 (which, for the record, he wears as a tribute to James, his favorite player). Then, Davis doesn’t get 23 because apparently, James “missed the deadline” and the transfer couldn’t occur. Also, Nike voids the swap, because they had thousands of James’ jerseys ready to sell and didn’t want to waste millions of dollars. If James cared so much about giving Davis the number, then why didn’t he offer to give him the number for the 2019-20 season and donate those jerseys to charity so kids who don’t have real clothes can have something to wear?
As you can see, James lying about his reasoning is nothing new, and while it would be great for fans to believe that James is retiring his jersey number for Booker, I simply can’t. Past experience and too much circumstantial evidence make that impossible for me, but what do you think? Why do you think James changed his jersey number? Let me know, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!