Feb 17, 2009 at 3:42 pm | around-the-nba
At every Cavaliers game, home or road, No. 23 jerseys dot the stands in an ever-widening array of color schemes. It has truly grown into LeBron James’ signature. But will it be that way forever? Maybe not. During a game in late December, fans at The Q were puzzled a bit when James warmed up for the game wearing a jersey with the No. 6. He later wore it on the bench during the game. That night it was just a mistake, James grabbed his practice attire out of his locker as part of his numerous layers he uses to keep warm while resting.
Wearing No. 6, though, has become somewhat standard for James. Ever since his triumphant summer wearing the number for Team USA – which James has said was the best experience of his career – he wears the number during practices and workouts as a homage to that gold-medal effort and all the work that went into it. Often when he gives autographed jerseys as gifts to friends or special causes these days, he’ll sign an Olympic No. 6 jersey. So indeed, he is No. 23, but No. 6 is part of him too. Someday, there’s a chance it could be his number all the time.
“It’s interesting to think about. I feel like 6 is my number, too,” James said about the prospect of switching. “If the NBA retired 23 because of Michael (Jordan) like baseball did with Jackie Robinson (42), I would definitely switch it. Maybe I would someday, we’ll see.”
James wears No. 23 because of Jordan, who was his hero as a child, as have numerous players over the last decade. But now he’s carved out his own niche, and there’s a chance he’d want his own number. “Well, No. 6 was Dr. J (Julius Erving) and Bill Russell’s number,” James said casually, showing his deep knowledge of the game’s history. “There have been great players to wear 6, but Michael is the greatest to wear my number.” Stars switching numbers is hardly unprecedented in the NBA. In 2006, Kobe Bryant switched his No. 8 for No. 24. When Jordan came out of his first retirement, after the Bulls had sent No. 23 to the rafters, he wore No. 45 for 22 games before switching back to No. 23 for the rest of his career. James actually used to wear No. 32 in high school; he moved to 23 as a sophomore. As a football player at St. Vincent-St. Mary, he wore No. 9, or 6 upside down; and he also wore No. 9 in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
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