LeBron James intends to pay respects to the late Boston Celtics legend, Bill Russell, by switching his jersey number back to 23 this upcoming season. His longtime friend and agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Group, confirmed the news to ESPN on Saturday night.
"It's LeBron's decision," Paul told the outlet. "He chose to out of respect for Bill Russell." In the wake of Russell's passing, last summer, the NBA retired the No. 6 across the league. It was the first time that the league had ever honored a player to that extent. James had a choice to keep wearing No. 6, however, as players already using the number were grandfathered in.
LeBron James Wears Number 23 For The Lakers
"For us to lose such icon, it was heartbreaking for all of us," James told ESPN at the start of training camp in September. "I mean, no matter if you play the game, watch the game or a part of the game. We all know what Bill Russell meant to the NBA, obviously to the Celtics off the floor as well, as far as his heroism … and what he meant to Black people, being able to speak about issues that are not comfortable. For me to be able to wear No. 6 this season -- I'm not sure if I'll continue to do it, but right now I'm going to wear it in honor of him. It means a lot to me."
James wore No. 23 with the Cleveland Cavaliers to begin his career, but switched to No. 6 when he joined the Miami Heat for four seasons. The team already retired No. 23 in honor of Michael Jordan. James went back to No. 23 for his second stint in Cleveland as well as his first three seasons in L.A. He only switched back to No. 6 during the last two seasons.