It's a simple question that many of us have been wondering ever since LeBron James announced his decision to leave the Miami Heat in free agency and rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers: Which jersey number would LeBron don upon (RHYMING) his return to the muddy banks of the Cuyahoga? Will he stick with the No. 6 he rocked en route to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two NBA championships in Miami? Or will he take the homecoming storyline to its logical conclusion by reclaiming the No. 23 he wore during his first stint in Ohio, where he won the first two of his four Most Valuable Player awards, led Cleveland to five straight playoff berths and became the Cavaliers' all-time leader in points, minutes and steals?
Based on the image he posted on Instagram on Friday, it seems clear that James has been pondering the choice, too:
In the hours after his announcement last Friday — which, holy cow, it's only been a week?!? — an image on James' website depicted him wearing No. 6 in the Cavs' wine-and-gold duds. That, however, contrasted with the Instagram post in which James proclaimed his homecoming, which showed him in a No. 23 jersey. One week later, apparently, LeBron's mind still isn't made up, so he's seeking the wisdom of social media crowds. Get to work, #influencers.
When he switched jersey numbers for the 2010-11 campaign, James said he was forsaking the 23 he wore through the last three years of his prep career at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron and for the first seven years of his professional career out of deference to Michael Jordan and that he'd chosen to go with 6 for several reasons — he wore No. 6 with the U.S. men's national basketball team, he loved former six-sporter Julius Erving, and it checked off his sons' birth dates, one of whom was born on Oct. 6, while the other was born in June, the sixth month. (He also avoided having to ask the Heat to unretire 23, which they'd somewhat oddly raised to the rafters out of respect for Jordan, despite the fact that he never played there.)
Whatever the decision's predicated on this time around, the folks who produce and sell NBA jerseys are sure hoping he'll make it quick, according to ESPN.com's Darren Rovell:
James taking his time means that retailers have to wait on all the orders they've received since last Saturday, when pre-orders for replica jerseys started at $69.99 each. Since then, the Cleveland Cavaliers have offered fans a replica youth jersey ($49), a swingman jersey ($99) and the authentic jersey ($300).
James sold the most jerseys of any NBA player in each of the last two seasons. He has been the best-selling jersey for six of the 11 seasons he has played in the league.
And with his popularity evidently at an all-time high after choosing to come back to Cleveland, those sales numbers are sure to skyrocket this coming season, whichever number he chooses. (I'd recommend going with the less expensive options, though; while I don't think LeBron would exercise his early termination option and skip town next summer, there are a lot of Heat fans and NBA observers who thought the same thing this summer, so it might not be a bad idea to limit your cash outlay for the moment.)
Personally, I'd like to see LeBron go back to 23, leaving 6 behind in South Florida. But if he is going to choose a new number, I'd sure like to see him reach for something new and potentially disruptive, like this suggestion from Steve McPherson:
It’s time to innovate the jersey number game, LeBron. Think outside the box. pic.twitter.com/y1BBFk96SS
— Steve McPherson (@steventurous) July 18, 2014
Start lining up your "Why LeBron James Is The First Emoji Superstar" thinkpieces now, y'all.
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