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PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JUNE 01: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball in Game Five of the Western Conference first-round playoff series at Phoenix Suns Arena on June 01, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo : Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
After a disappointing season with the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James is moving on. But don’t fret, Laker fans; King James will still be donning the purple and gold, albeit with a different number. The Athletic’s Sham Charania and Tim Cato have reported that the four-time MVP will be changing his jersey number from No. 23 to No. 6 for the upcoming season.
LeBron’s jersey plans two years in the making
James almost made the number switch in 2019 after the Lakers acquired Anthony Davis in a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. He decided to give No. 23 to Davis as this was the only number AD has worn in his college and professional career. However, the move didn’t push through as the Davis trade was made in July, and the deadline for new jersey numbers for players was March 15.
James and Davis still could’ve made the switch back then, but legal complexities eventually nixed the deal. According to a report by ESPN, the NBA would have waived that March 15 deadline if the league’s official outfitter, Nike, agreed. The company, however, didn’t agree as the unused inventory of No. 23 James jerseys that Nike already produced would have led to a staggering financial hit ranging into tens of millions of dollars.
In addition, James’ Nike LeBron 17 sneaker also had No. 23 in its design, which could not be updated to No. 6 in time for the on-sale date that season, given that the shoe was confirmed and already working toward production.
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Why James is making the switch now
As a result, James decided to stick with the No. 23 jersey for the next two seasons, including their championship-winning run in the 2019-20 campaign.
The switch is back on again, though, with James expected to wear No. 6 next season. Some of James’ best performances have come in the No. 6 jersey. He won two Olympic gold medals while wearing that number in international competitions for Team USA.
James later donned that same number for four seasons with the Miami Heat, which had already retired No. 23 in honor of Michael Jordan, winning two NBA championships in the process.
James’ usage of the No. 6 jersey was inspired by NBA Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Julius “Dr. J” Erving, who both wore that same number. Even though he has worn No. 23 in recent years, James has continued to wear No. 6 on his practice uniform with the Cavaliers and the Lakers since leaving the Heat in 2014. James said that dual number decision was his way of paying homage to NFL legend Deion Sanders, who wore his collegiate No. 2 on his practice uniform but played in No. 21 for most of his pro football career.
That being said, there might be another reason why James is finally making the switch next season. His much-anticipated movie, Space Jam: A New Legacy, will be released this coming July, and promotional materials for that film show James wearing a No. 6 Tune Squad uniform. Given James’ marketing savvy, he’s probably expecting this jersey switch to help drum up publicity for his upcoming film.
Consider that LeBron, Mission Accomplished.
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