In a nod to Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, LeBron James will change his uniform number from 6 back to 23 for the Los Angeles Lakers this coming season.
LeBron James has worn two jersey numbers during his NBA career: 23 and 6. The former was his number during both of his stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, while the latter was his number with the Miami Heat, both because it was his number with USA Basketball and because the franchise retired 23 to honor Michael Jordan’s career during the 2002-03 season.
As a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, James has worn both, as he wore 23 for his first three seasons before switching to 6 for each of the last two years. And now, according to comments that his agent Rich Paul gave to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, James is once again going back to 23.
LeBron James will change his uniform from No. 6 to No. 23 next season. “It’s LeBron’s decision,” Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Group told ESPN. “He chose to out of respect for Bill Russell.” The NBA retired No. 6 league-wide last August; James wore it a final season to honor Russell
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 16, 2023
Back when Anthony Davis first joined the Lakers, James was all set to let him wear 23, which was his number with the New Orleans Pelicans. However, there were rules in place that prevented that from happening, so Davis took the number 3, won a ring in his first season, and just kept wearing that in L.A. As such, James kept his original number until he decided to change it after Space Jam: A New Legacy came out — he wore 6 on his back during the movie.
Now, James is heading back to 23. It comes a little less than a year after the passing of the great Bill Russell, who wore the number during his career. The NBA announced following his passing that the number would be retired league-wide, although players who currently wear it are allowed to continue to do so. Last season, James was one of 18 players to wear the number.