It’s official. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is going to change his jersey number to no. 6 from no. 23 next season. For those diligently following his career, James actually wanted the jersey number change two summers ago. However, Nike—the official apparel producer of the NBA—had already made too much no. 23 jerseys to let James make the switch.
Now all of that’s taken care of, fans will be treated to the return of no. 6 LeBron. As if by instinct, James fans (and haters) are already comparing the two faces of LeBron. So let’s help these fans
Since LeBron has worn the no. 23 for much longer, we’re not going to compare all of the accomplishments. We don’t need to verify if the no. 23 James has more All-Star appearances, All-NBA selections, All-Defensive selections etc. than no. 6. Rather, we’ll look at the more significant milestones like titles won, MVP trophies raised, statistics, and overall narrative.
LeBron James With No. 23
James has worn the no. 23 jersey for most of his basketball career, which includes his high school stint where he first entered mainstream consciousness. He was never shy in admitting that he chose the number in honor of his favorite player Michael Jordan. In the NBA, he has worn it for a total of 14 years for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers. His averages are 27.0 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting, 7.4 rebounds and 7.6 assists.
In terms of titles won, James has two under no. 23.
No. 23 has its share of ups and downs. Even before he set foot in the league, people were already expecting so much from him. LeBron did really great, at least from an individual perspective. He showed that he was a player of his own making. His athletic prowess is impressive, but it’s his basketball IQ that made him stand out from the rest of the pack. Amid all his searing skills, though, it took years (and a second stint) for James to win a title under this jersey. He even became a villain and swapped numbers before he claimed one.
We all know about his 2016 title win for Cleveland. His win for the Lakers was great, but there’s no doubt that his victory for the Cavaliers is his most-prized Larry O’Brien trophy ever. As for one, this was the city’s first title in over 50 years. And on a personal level, do recall that James became the most hated man in Cleveland when he took his talents to South Beach in the summer of 2010.
It’s amazing that James seemed to instantly forgive the legions of Cavs fans who flocked to the streets to burn his jersey. James understood their feelings but didn’t take them personally. At the end of the day, he loves his fans and in his return in 2014, he delivered his promised to give them a title.
LeBron James With No. 6
James has worn the no. 6 jersey for a total of four years. His averages are 26.9 points on 54.3 percent from the field, 7.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists. Like no. 23, no. 6 LeBron also has two titles.
Moreover, let’s not forget that James donned no. 6 during the Olympics where he helped Team USA claim two gold medals and a bronze. He noted that he chose the no. 6 in honor of Bill Russell and Julius Erving. Reports reveal that even when he changed his jersey back to no. 23, he still wore no. 6 in his practice jerseys for the Cavs and the Lakers.
Some may say the no. 6 rendition of James is “evil LeBron.” After all, this was when he formed a superteam in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and basically wreaked havoc all over the league. This was the start of James’ eight consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, a record that will probably never be broken.
From an individual standpoint, many analysts believe that this was the most complete version of James. He shot way better from the field and from downtown. Teams can no longer sag off him. To make matters worse, he had more knowledge of the game and of course, had unparalleled chemistry with Wade.
No 23. may possess the better narrative, especially since no. 6 just pummeled over his foes. However, the new chapter of no. 6 is just beginning. From the looks of it, James will wear this number until he retires.
The 36-year-old inked a two-year, $85 million contract extension with the Lakers in December 2020. While his colleagues say he can play up until he’s 40, we need to be realistic in our expectations.
Though James has declined physically (at least for a bit), we can never underestimate his basketball mind, which is still the sharpest in the league at this point. Love or hate James, you better keep your eyes peeled for the Lakers forward wearing no. 6. The last two seasons may be the final time you’ll witness one of the greatest.