It’s likely something you don’t think about much, but numbers are all around you every day in your daily life. Even the days of the months and the time we base on our daily schedules are composed of numbers; it’s fair to argue this world is a numerical one. That’s enough fuel to kickstart another TikTok manifestation trend1 and inspire simulation theorists to continue poring over coding basics, but it’s true. Recurring readers will remember my quick references to numerology during my review of certain2 Prince albums3 for my “Retroactive Review” series, but this is not a deep dive into occultic symbolism or a discussion of long-standing practices such as gematria. However, I will briefly explain the reasoning behind LeBron’s delayed number change.
The number three has long been considered a motif across this globe for a reason, and the first three numbers specifically have the distinctive traits describing a prototypical nuclear family. One is a strong-willed number representing leadership and taking charge, a father, while two constitutes teamwork, romance, and diplomacy; a mother. Therefore, three would logically typify a child and all the creativity that comes with it. These three numbers’ general numerological root meanings strongly correspond to their life path numbers as well. However, the particular combination of two and three have long had a lasting impact on society. New Line Cinema distributed the film The Number 23 back in 2007, which featured a plot about a man who became obsessed with the number while reading a novel about a man whose life reminds him a lot of his own. Eventually, he succumbs to madness and reveals an intricate plot of mistaken identity amidst the conspiracy of the 23 enigma.
I must reiterate that this article is not an unraveling4 of numerological conspiracies5, but numbers have significant value in sports. An athlete’s statistics are measured against their contemporaries by fans alike in all-time debates. However, athletes constantly have to perform at their best to secure further statistical or achievement-based bonuses in their multi-million dollar contracts. It only makes sense that to be paid like the best; you have to perform like one of the best; it’s just funny that essentially, numbers are what determines how many numbers an athlete makes. If that wasn’t enough, players are even designated numbers to wear while performing to be more easily distinguished on the playing field.
I state all that to prove Nike wasn’t lying when they denied LeBron’s number change request for fear of revenue loss6. In this world, the primary goal for people’s motivations usually comes down to money; due to the hypnotic power and freedom of the number 23 in tandem with his play on the court, LeBron’s jerseys are regularly among the highest-selling7 NBA jerseys. Then why bother changing his jersey at all? It can’t possibly be solely due to Space Jam: A New Legacy, can it8? Not entirely since he proposed changing his number for the 2019-20 season to allow Anthony Davis to take No. 23, which led to Nike nixing that proposal, and if we read between the lines, we can find more story in the details.
LeBron’s first request for his number change was during the 2009-10 season9, stating he wanted to respect Michael Jordan’s No. 23. However, he gave two further reasons, as now he would be matching his Olympic number and the day of his first son’s birth. That reasoning alone was a big hint he was going to take his talents to South Beach, as the Heat retired Michael Jordan’s number just seven years prior for that very same reason, even though he never played10 for the franchise. It mattered little, as his jersey became the NBA’s top-selling jersey for the 2010-11 season11 for just the second time in his career. He’d do it again in 2013-14 after coming in second in 2012-13, before doing so three more times under No. 23 in 2014-15, 2019-20, and 2020-21. When one considers LeBron changed his number upon joining an organization in the Heat capable of building a championship culture, it should come as no surprise that LeBron’s delayed number change in L.A. coincides with the Lakers’ acquisition of Russell Westbrook. People questioned then if LeBron could win a championship even with two superstars beside him; after the 2020-21 Lakers went out in the first round, people began questioning the legitimacy of their 2019-20 title, and now, how his new trio will fit together.
LeBron’s return to Cleveland in 2015 signaled a prodigal son storyline12 and the return of the No. 23, as well as the first championship in Cleveland in 52 years. He delivered on his promise, went to the Finals every year during his second stint there, and then moved on to the bright lights of L.A., where he stayed as No. 23 on a young, developing team. As noted before, he attempted to give Anthony Davis his No. 23 and switch to No. 6 in 2019-20, so Nike nixing the number change and the 2020 NBA Playoff bubble should’ve been a major hint for another Lakers championship. It’s better to wait until the team can bring in another star to form a big three before LeBron switches back to No. 6, a number associated with harmony and idealism. LeBron ran his teams during his second stint in Cleveland like he did during his first, adhering to The LeBron System; in Miami as No. 6, he was unable to do that under the leadership of Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra. Dwyane Wade did have to grant LeBron his role as team leader to make it work, but LeBron was in the post and playing more team-oriented than he has anywhere else in his career.
If you are a returning reader, you’ll remember me mentioning my appearance on the No Smoke Podcast 13 in my 2018 article, “LeBron’s Lakers.”14 Near the end of that podcast, my friend asked a question; would LeBron have his jersey retired in L.A.? I responded by stating he only needed one title for the Lakers to retire his jersey, and I suspect that’s why Anthony Davis chose to wear No. 3 instead15. LeBron made a big statement when he said he was chasing “the ghost in Chicago” back in 201616, especially since we know he already said he’d stop wearing No. 23 out of respect for Michael Jordan before. This elaborate series of numerical and personnel changes all adds up to LeBron attempting to remove the lingering stigma of Jordan around his number and hang it in the rafters at Staples Center while pursuing further championships with a talented team around himself.
- YouTube/It’sAGundam – 5/7/2021 – TikTokers Think they can Hack Reality with “Cheat Codes” for Manifesting
- Havarti – 4/20/2018 – Retroactive Review: Sign o’ the Times (1987)
- Havarti – 9/21/2018 – Retroactive Review: Love Symbol Album (1992)
- YouTube/3-6-9 The Key – 12/5/2017 – Mathematics of MICHAEL JORDAN:The numbers 3 6 and 9 that follow him REVEALED!
- YouTube/Tony Telling It Like It Is – 6/4/2019 – NBA Numerology, Michael Jordan (Playlist)
- ESPN – 6/12/2019 -Source: LeBron’s No. 6 to wait due to Nike issue
- SB Nation/Silver Screen and Roll – 7/18/2021 – LeBron James, Lakers still top in the NBA in merch sales
- Republic World – 6/10/2021 – LeBron James Jersey Number: Why Is LeBron James Changing Number? No 6 Returns
- Cleveland.com – 3/2/2010 – LeBron James files application for No. 6 jersey for the 2010-11 season
- ESPN – 4/11/2003 – Heat honor Jordan by retiring No. 23 jersey
- Interbasket.net – Top Selling NBA Jerseys: The NBA’s Most Popular Jerseys by Year
- Which should make publications like The Boston Globe embarrassed since the parable of the prodigal son isn’t exactly appropriate to the situation. The Heatles didn’t win the title every year they were together, but I wouldn’t say LeBron squandered his chances of success in Miami.
- SoundCloud/No Smoke Podcast – DON’T PUT IT IN MY ASS!!!! – 1:06:01
- Havarti – 7/23/2018 – LeBron’s Lakers
- Dwyane Wade also wore No. 3 during his years in Miami
- Sports Illustrated – 8/2/2016 – LeBron James chases the ghost from Chicago and basketball immortality