FanDuel - WFBC

November 13, 2009

LeBron James: Honor Jordan By Giving Up No. 23: LeBron James has called on all NBA players who wear No. 23 to choose another number as an homage to Michael Jordan. "I feel like no NBA player should wear 23," he said. "I'm starting a petition, and I've got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I'm not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it." There are 12 other 23s in the league in addition to James: Marcus Camby of the Clippers, B.J. Mullens (Thunder), Stephen Graham (Bobcats), C.J. Watson (Warriors), Jodie Meeks (Bucks), Devin Brown (Hornets), Toney Douglas (Knicks), Lou Williams (76ers), Jason Richardson (Suns), Martell Webster (Trail Blazers), Kevin Martin (Kings) and Wes Matthews (Jazz).

posted by rcade to basketball at 12:09 PM - 38 comments

rcade, you should have added that he wants to switch to #6, which was Dr. J's and Bill Russell's number. I imagine this will create some kind of backlash or debate among the veterans and fans of those eras (me being one).

posted by smithnyiu at 12:33 PM on November 13

"I just think what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized some way soon," James said.

Yeah....if only there were some kind of, I don't know....a hall, maybe? Where they put famous people? They could put Jordan there.....that would be so cool. He'd probably even get to give an awesome speech!

"Now, if I'm not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it."

This.....seems a little arrogant on James' part.

Am I the only one who finds professional athletes' utter fetishization of uniform numbers a little creepy?

posted by keylimeguy at 12:33 PM on November 13

What an empty, headline-grabbing gesture this is.

Who cares? Everyone that's followed the NBA understands the importance of number 23, and if you wear that number, you bring judgment on yourself, lol. People will hold you to a higher standard, or assume you don't deserve to use it. Let teams retire it if they wish. I mean, in the NHL if you want to wear 99 or 66 or 4 or 9 or any particularly iconic number, you can, and nobody really bats an eye anymore. This is because hockey fans will never agree on who the greatest of all time is.

In summary: this is stupid, Lebrawn. Use your time better.

posted by insomnyuk at 12:35 PM on November 13

Publicity stunt and ego booster -- he believes everyone should follow his lead.

posted by jjzucal at 12:35 PM on November 13

First, it is ridiculous to imply that Jordan is not honored. He is in the HOF. How many players are wearing his shoes? Second, Lebron can honor Jordan anyway he chooses, but he doesn't get to decide what everyone else should do to honor him. Third, #23 in a Bulls uniform is reminiscent of Jordan, but not every #23 in every other jersey. Finally, why was Jordan more significant to the league than Bill Russell? I think I can answer that. Because Lebron remembers watching Jordan, but not Russell, play.

posted by bperk at 12:41 PM on November 13

I believe the NHL actually retired 99 league-wide.

posted by fabulon7 at 12:42 PM on November 13

maybe, can you provide a link? I saw it a lot even after Gretzky retired.

posted by insomnyuk at 12:46 PM on November 13

I don't think it's an empty gesture at all. But after Michael Jordan's ridiculous Hall of Fame speech, I think he's had enough major honors for a while. If the league wants to honor former players, there are in fact other players who contributed to the league.

posted by rcade at 12:48 PM on November 13

I don't see what the big deal is and I don't believe it to be an empty gesture. Michael Jordan is most NBA players favorite player since most grew up watching him play. If LeBron is willing to not wear #23 in honor of MJ, that's cool. If other NBA players follow suit, that's cool too. The only problem that I have with it is not that it's an ego thing but that he wants to switch from #23 to #6 and like smithnyiu pointed out, Dr. J and Bill Russell both wore that number and they're also both in the Hall of Fame and contributed to the league even after their playing days were over.

I understand completely that MJ is, in most of our eyes, the greatest basketball player to ever play the game but maybe the Bulls should be the ones to have #23 retired.

The MLB has retired the #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson because of the impact he had for the game of baseball but more importantly, for breaking racial barriers that held back players just for the color of their skin. MJ never had to worry about anything like that and just had to focus on playing basketball. If a player doesn't feel like they should give up wearing #23 just because LeBron said so, I personally wouldn't have a problem with it at all.

Good gesture though.

posted by BornIcon at 12:56 PM on November 13

It's a hell of an opportunity to sell a bunch of Cavalier #6 jerseys.

What about next year if when LeBron signs with a different team?
Is he going to switch jerseys part way through his tenure with that club too ?

It reeks of an out and out merchandising ploy.
I seem to recall Kobe pulling this stunt without the excuse of ''honouring'' another player a few years ago with the Lakers.

While you're at it LeBron, add to your petition that noone should wear #1 or #14 either, m'kay?

posted by tommytrump at 01:09 PM on November 13

I believe the NHL actually retired 99 league-wide.

maybe, can you provide a link? I saw it a lot even after Gretzky retired.

Ask, and you shall receive.

and Gretzky was the last to wear 99.

posted by MeatSaber at 01:58 PM on November 13

Could this be a diversion from all the 2010 free agency talk?

posted by curlyelk at 02:13 PM on November 13

Every team is not the Bulls.

posted by Joey Michaels at 02:27 PM on November 13

but maybe the Bulls should be the ones to have #23 retired.

They did.

posted by cjets at 03:27 PM on November 13

Just for shits and giggles, here are Jordan's highlights from the same link:

BULLS CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Led the Bulls to six NBA World Championships (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998) NBA MVP 1987-88, 1990-91, 1991-92, 1995-96, 1997-98 NBA Finals MVP 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998 NBA All-Star Game MVP 1988, 1996, 1998 NBA Rookie of the Year 1984-85 NBA Defensive Player of the Year 1987-88 NBA All-Star 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998 named to the NBA's list of 50 greatest players in NBA history member of 1984 and 1992 USA Olympic gold medal-winning basketball teams led the league in scoring 10 times Bulls all-time leader in scoring (29, 277 points), rebounds (5,836), assists (5,012), steals (2,306) and games played (930).

Yep. Best I ever saw.

posted by cjets at 03:29 PM on November 13

rcade, you should have added that he wants to switch to #6, which was Dr. J's and Bill Russell's number.

I was thinking something similar. Bill Russell would come to mind before Jordan as a likely candidate to have his number retired. If one was to retire numbers. But in truth I don't think anybody's number needs to be retired just yet.

And Jordan has already been honored with his Hall induction.

posted by THX-1138 at 04:14 PM on November 13

Kobe did a great 'what-comes-after-23' switch. LeBron should also adopt 24 and see which of them will do it better.

posted by geekyguy at 04:40 PM on November 13

Lebron James doesn't understand or know who Bill Russell is. I doubt he even knows what team Erving played for.

posted by JButton at 04:47 PM on November 13

It's a hell of an opportunity to sell a bunch of Cavalier #6 jerseys.

It reeks of an out and out merchandising ploy.

I totally agree with these statements. LeBron wouldn't do anything that didn't benefit him is his wallet.

I also truly think he realizes he'll probably never be seen as the greatest #23 in the history of the game. Jordan will always be why 23 is remembered in basketball. He should have chosen a different number when he started his NBA career. But why he'd choose #6 is beyond me also. Out of every choice, it seems he'd pick out a number that would only be thought of as LeBron's number in the future.

posted by dyams at 05:50 PM on November 13

I'm too young to remember #6 being Russell or Dr J's, in my mind it'll probably be Lebron's.

posted by tron7 at 06:58 PM on November 13

Russell was a dominating champion, and Dr. J was the originator of the above-the-rim game. LeBron is a great talent, but he'll make his name and legend off fans who want to ignore pro basketball prior to MJ.

posted by dyams at 07:06 PM on November 13

I would be all for this move had Jordan had the same impact on the NBA that Jackie Robinson had on MLB. Perhaps the NBA should retire the numbers of Chuck Cooper, Earl Lloyd, Nat Clifton, Don Barksdale, or some of the other early black NBA players. Maybe LeBron should read some of the history of the game that pays him so well, instead of trying to draw attention to himself.

posted by Howard_T at 07:10 PM on November 13

When he was in college, the NCAA introduced the goaltending rule to counter George Mikan's dominance of the game. When he was in the NBA, they had to widen the lane for the same reason. Later, the shot clock was introduced because other teams were slowing the game down to keep the ball away from Mikan. One man: three fundamental rule changes. Oh, and as commissioner of the ABA, he introduced the 3-point line.

His Lakers won 5 of the first 6 NBA championships and he won a couple more in the NBL and BAA before the NBA was formed. He was voted the greatest player of the first half of the 20th century by the AP.

Jordan was the best I've ever seen, but I've got to say that Mikan had more impact on the game. Maybe Lebron needs to study some history.

posted by joaquim at 09:39 PM on November 13

maybe, can you provide a link? I saw it a lot even after Gretzky retired.

Huh?

Nobody wore 99 after 1984, if I remember correctly.
I think Wilf Paiement was the only other player to wear it, and he gave it up pretty quickly.

Edit: Well, I missed the follow-up comment that showed it was Paiement and Dudley, and it was Gretzky-only after 1982.

posted by grum@work at 11:22 PM on November 13

B.J. Armstrong

posted by geekyguy at 12:56 PM on November 14

Care to elaborate, geekguy?

posted by MeatSaber at 01:16 PM on November 14

Um, yeah, ESPN lists B.J. Armstrong as #23 http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/stats?playerId=23

posted by geekyguy at 03:36 PM on November 14

I think it's slightly unfair for older sports fans to criticize someone in their twenties for not having enough respect for someone they didn't have the ability to watch play. Sure, I hear stories about how amazing Babe Ruth was, but when I was a kid I wanted to be like the players I'd actually seen, not people who were essentially mythical.

LeBron knows who Bill Russell and Dr. J were, but can he really understand how dominant they were in their time? It seems like old-time sour grapes to hold it against him that he can't appreciate something it is impossible for him to have experienced.

posted by dfleming at 05:32 PM on November 14

By that reasoning, your twenty-something's choice of greatest president is limited to Reagan, Clinton, Obama, and a couple of Bushes. Ta-ta, Lincoln. Don't even turn around, Washington. (And believe it or not, I wasn't around to vote for either of them.)

Instead of defending your slack-jawed, dull-minded, self-centered, low-attention-span-having youngsters, maybe you should be trying to get some sense into them.

posted by joaquim at 05:49 PM on November 14

Instead of defending your slack-jawed, dull-minded, self-centered, low-attention-span-having youngsters, maybe you should be trying to get some sense into them.

You know, I've studied a lot of great writers and thinkers, and though I can understand what they wrote about, I can't pretend to understand what the work meant at the time it was written. I'm thrilled that you seem to think you've got a handle on how to replace the experience of being there with, uh, "sense", but I think that's naivete on your part rather than actually having done it.

posted by dfleming at 06:19 PM on November 14

We're not talking centuries here, Dfleming. Babe Ruth last played 74 years ago, so there are still some people around who could have seen him play and had an understanding of what he meant to the game. There also are many more people in their 50s, 60s and 70s who were close to the era in which he played, so they could have a pretty strong idea of what he meant to the game in the time he played it -- based on firsthand accounts by people they knew.

LeBron James is surrounded by people in the NBA who saw Russell and Dr. J play, played with or against them, and coached them. If he is attentive and mindful of the history of the game, he'd have ample opportunity to develop respect for them.

Does that substitute for direct personal experience? No. But historical perspective is important, too.

posted by rcade at 11:20 PM on November 14

LeBron James is surrounded by people in the NBA who saw Russell and Dr. J play, played with or against them, and coached them. If he is attentive and mindful of the history of the game, he'd have ample opportunity to develop respect for them.

Is there any indication that he doesn't have any respect for them? Obviously, his idol is Jordan, however having Jordan on a pedestal as the greatest player of all time doesn't mean he doesn't have any respect for the others. I mean, he even says in the article that Dr. J was his second favorite player growing up and he wears his number at the Olympics, just like he did when he was a kid.

He's got a sense of what players meant something in NBA history and he's made a value judgment that the globalization, number recognition and explosion of basketball around the world is a result of Air Jordan. Whether or not Jordan's the best ever is contestable, however it doesn't mean that he's not mindful of those who came before.

posted by dfleming at 09:54 AM on November 15

I'm just responding to the premise that you can't develop strong respect for players you never saw play, not suggesting that James hasn't been respectful enough.

posted by rcade at 11:23 AM on November 15

Instead of defending your slack-jawed, dull-minded, self-centered, low-attention-span-having youngsters, maybe you should be trying to get some sense into them.

"Grey hair does not confer wisdom." - Thoreau

That said, I think LeBron James is a great player and seems to be a decent person, but he has a gift for striking the wrong note at times. His declaration of how #23 should be handled by NBA players reminds me of George Carlin's frustration with airline stewardesses welcoming passengers to a city: "We just landed five minutes ago and she's coming on like the ... mayor's wife." Defer to your elders on this one. Let such an idea come from someone else.

posted by yerfatma at 11:43 AM on November 15

I'm thrilled that you seem to think you've got a handle on how to replace the experience of being there with, uh, "sense" Happy to add to your joy of life. It's too bad you didn't actually understand what I wrote or it may have been even better for you. As for the irreplaceability of your "experience of being there":

1) Can you breathe in the vacuum of space? How do you know if you've never experienced being there? 2) Was being gassed and burned at Auschwitz a good or bad thing? How do you know if you never experienced being there? 3) Did Chamberlain score 100 points in a game? Did he sleep with thousands of women? Were you there?

Basing an assessment of the greatest impact to a particular activity solely on what you've personally witnessed is foolish. It would be like considering Bill Gates a greater scientist than Isaac Newton simply because you weren't alive when Newton was alive. We have the capability of studying history and learning from it, so we should use that capability rather than relying exclusively on knee-jerk reactions to personal experience.

"Grey hair does not confer wisdom." - Thoreau "Thoreau was a pussy" - Chuck Norris

posted by joaquim at 11:18 AM on November 16

I think it's more of an homage to wear the number of your hero, a la Steve Yzerman wearing 19 in honor of Brian Trottier. If the almighty Stern deems Jordan worthy of a league-wide retirement, so be it. But I don't think it's up to LBJ to make that call...

posted by MeatSaber at 04:53 PM on November 16

This seems appropriate.

posted by geekyguy at 10:38 PM on November 16

Maybe as a tribute to Jordan's multiple comebacks, they can retire it for a couple of years, unretire it, retire again . . . - Richard Roeper

Not necessarily a big fan of his, but I really liked this thought.

posted by opel70 at 10:55 AM on November 18

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