LeBron James Has Switched Jersey Numbers Multiple Times Throughout His Record-Breaking Career
On Feb. 7, LeBron James became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing six-time NBA MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
"I just want to say thank you to the Laker faithful. You guys are one of a kind," LeBron said after the record-breaking shot. "To be able to be in the presence of such a legend and great as Kareem, it's very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to The Captain, please."
In 2023, LeBron’s No. 6 jersey has now become synonymous with NBA history. Read on to learn why he switched to the number in the first place.
Why did LeBron James switch his jersey number to 6?
During the 2021 offseason, LeBron traded his legendary No. 23 for No. 6. However, this isn’t the first time the legendary NBA player has donned the jersey number.
At the beginning of his time-honored career with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the early aughts, LeBron sported Michael Jordan’s iconic No. 23 on the court. But when he joined the Miami Heat for four seasons in 2010, he traded No. 23 for No. 6.
When the NBA star returned to Cleveland after several years with the Heat, LeBron took on No. 23 again. He continued wearing the number even after he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018. However, now he’s back to No. 6, and it appears the jersey number will stick.
The NBA retired No. 6 following Bill Russell’s passing in 2022.
When Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell died at age 88 in July 2022, the NBA permanently retired his No. 6 jersey. To preserve the legacy of one of the greatest NBA players of all time, players are wearing commemorative patches on their jerseys during the 2022-2023 season. However, now that Russell’s No. 6 is no more, you might wonder how LeBron can continue donning it on his jersey.
The answer is quite simple. After the NBA announced they would retire No. 6, they said any player currently donning the jersey number will be “grandfathered in.” This means that any NBA player actively sporting No. 6 can continue to do so, but no new players will be allowed to take on the jersey number in the future. LeBron and the 24 other players wearing No. 6 jerseys during the 2021-2022 NBA season can continue doing so.
LeBron’s No. 6 jersey coincided with the release of the 2021 film ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy.’
Before news broke that the NBA all-star was switching from No. 23 to No. 6 again, fans were confused when they saw LeBron donning his old jersey number in the Space Jam: A New Legacy trailer. However, the switch had been a long time coming.
LeBron planned to gift No. 23 to Anthony Davis when he was traded to the Lakers in 2019, but Nike refused because they already produced jerseys with No. 23 on them. COVID-19 then further delayed the jersey switch. However, the right time finally arrived when the film debuted in 2021.
Why is the No. 6 significant to LeBron?
According to The Athletic, when LeBron switched to No. 6 in 2010, “It was not only out of deference to Jordan, whose 23 was retired by the Heat earlier in the decade but also in honor of Julius Erving, a nod to his kids’ birthdays. He also wore 6 in three Olympics.”