LeBron James is expected to have a new number during the 2021-22 NBA season.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, James is going to be wearing the No. 6 jersey next year, the number he wore during his four-year run with the Miami Heat.
The change will come after his appearance in “Space Jam 2: A New Legacy” during the summer.
First look: LeBron James will change his Lakers jersey number to No. 6 next season after donning the number in his new movie “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” pic.twitter.com/VZksn1qVCy
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 9, 2021
This isn’t the first time James has changed numbers during his career, nor is it the first time that he has worn the No. 6. Here’s a brief history of the jerseys he has worn during his 18-year NBA career.
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Why LeBron James has worn Nos. 23, 6 during his NBA career
During his first stint with the Cavaliers from 2003-10, James donned the No. 23 jersey. The reason that he chose that jersey had everything to do with Michael Jordan, as he explained in a 2019 interview.
“I wear the No. 23 for the great Michael Jordan,” James said. “When I started playing basketball, I was like: ‘Oh man, that two-three looks good. I wanna be able to fly like him. I wanna be able to shoot like him. I wanna be able to dunk on somebody like him. I wanna be able to stick out my tongue like him in the air and yell in somebody’s face like MJ.’
“So, ever since I started playing ball, I wore No. 23.”
However, when James first joined the Heat in 2010, he did move off the No. 23 jersey and opted to wear the No. 6 instead. At the time, he explained that he was doing that to honor Jordan’s legacy.
“I just think that what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized in some way soon,” James said, per Bleacher Report. “There would be no LeBron James, no Kobe Bryant, no Dwyane Wade if there wasn’t Michael Jordan first.”
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At the time, James even petitioned for the number to be retired across the league.
“I feel like no NBA player should wear 23. I’m starting a petition and I’ve got everyone in the NBA to sign it.” James said. “Now, if I’m not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it.”
That never really gained any steam, and so, when James went back to Cleveland in 2014, he elected to wear the No. 23 jersey again. He has worn 23 since that point from 2014-21 until the latest switch was announced.
Why is LeBron James switching jersey numbers again?
But why is LeBron making the switch again? Well, it could have something to do with his teammate Anthony Davis.
Before coming to the Lakers, Davis had always worn the 23 jersey with the Pelicans, and James was fine with the idea of gifting Davis the number. However, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Nike shut that down ahead of the 2019-20 season:
Due to production issues and the massive financial hit Nike would have absorbed from the No. 23 James inventory that’s already been produced, Nike could not accommodate the request for this season, sources said.
After a couple of years, perhaps Nike is better able to accommodate the switch, especially if James and Davis gave them advanced notice.
However, as Charania and Tim Cato of The Athletic reported, Davis is expected to keep his No. 3 jersey. So, maybe there’s another reason that James elected to change things up again.