LeBron James will return to jersey number 23 “out of respect” for the late Bill Russell

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Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James warms up before facing the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals in Los Angeles on May 20, 2023.


NBA superstar LeBron James will return to jersey number 23 for the Los Angeles Lakers’ next season, the team announcement SATURDAY.

James, who wore the No. 23 jersey in 14 of his 20 NBA seasons, wore the No. 6 jersey the previous two seasons with the Lakers.

“It’s LeBron’s decision,” said Klutch Sports Group CEO Rich Paul and longtime friend of James. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “He chose out of respect for Bill Russell.”

Russell, 11-time champion with the Boston Celtics and five-time NBA MVP, died July 31, 2022, at the age of 88. Following his death, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced that Hall of Famer’s No. 6 would be retired league-wide, noting that players who wore the number at the time would be allowed to continue to wear it. to carry.

CNN contacted Klutch Sports Group but did not immediately respond.

In addition to his athletic accomplishments, which included having the NBA Finals MVP trophy named after him, Russell was one of the sport’s foremost civil rights activists and walked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. He also supported iconic boxer Muhammad Ali in his opposition to his enlistment in the army.

Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama in February 2011.

“For us to lose such an icon, it was heartbreaking for all of us,” James told ESPN before the start of last season. “I mean, it doesn’t matter if you play the game, watch the game or part of the game. We all know what Bill Russell meant to the NBA, obviously to the Celtics, on the floor too, in terms of his heroism…and what he meant to us black people, you know, being able to talk about issues that aren’t not comfortable, and he did it at a time when it was not comfortable for the majority.

“For me to be able to wear number 6 this season – I don’t know if I will continue to do so, but now I will wear it in his honor. It means a lot to me,” he continued.

The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, James originally wore No. 23 in his first seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and No. 6 while competing for Team USA in international competition.

After joining the Miami Heat in 2010, James rose to No. 6 in his four seasons with the franchise as the organization retired No. 23 in honor of Michael Jordan. After returning to the Cavaliers in 2014, the 38-year-old opted to return to No. 23, which he wore until after his third season with the Lakers in 2021.

The jersey of the four-time NBA champion was that of the league top rated seller on NBAStore.com in the second half of last season.

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