Thursday, April 15, 2010

There Can Be Only One...23

Michael Jordan is unquestionably the greatest player to wear an NBA jersey. Twice he led the Chicago Bulls to 3 peat as NBA champions, multiple MVP honors as well as Olympic gold. The statue, the billboards, and the majestic number 23 jersey hanging high in the rafters in Chicago, has he not been given his due? No one will question his greatness, talent or what he did not only for basketball but sports the world over.

With his recent Hall of Fame induction you would think the circle was complete on honoring MJ...but Mr. James begs to differ. Lebron James recently stated that as of next season he will no longer wear the number 23 (He's changing to the number 6) and that no other player should wear it either. He sees it as paying homage to Jordan and as a sign of respect all other players in the NBA should follow suit. Currently there are 13, 23's floating around the NBA and James feels as none are worthy.

Changing jersey numbers is not so uncommon, Jordan himself tried it. (We all remember the brief appearance of 45) as well as Kobe, Shaq, Malone, Rodman, Wallace, and a list of others. But to insist for the entire league to forfeit the number 23 is a little, well insulting. If Lebron decides he just can't do it MJ anymore than fine. It's the idea that the other 12 guys aren't fit to dawn those digits where the problem lies.

So where do we go from here? Is this the start of league wide retirements? Is that much respect due? I can't even see Michael accepting this, and what true competitor would? Does Lebron think for a second that MJ would concede to a number being off limits because the guy before him was "just too good"?

Teams respect their franchises major contributors, that's why "they" retire numbers. The Chicago Bulls have more than shown Jordan love. With his induction into the Hall of Fame as well as every credit you can give the man, the NBA has done their part. Michael Jordan is and forever will be respected, loved, admired and cherished for what he did on the court and for the game of basketball.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not even making the argument against a lead-wide number retirement...I just wish Lebron would keep it real. The fact is, since his change from 8 to 24 Kobe Bryant has dominated as the highest selling jersey in the NBA. Leaving Lebron a distant second. This number change helped launch the reinvention of the Shaq-less, Laker leading, Black Mamba.

Kobe used the opportunity to start over and dawn a new age as a more mature, team orientated, even funny guy. With the help of Spike Lee filming the documentary, "Kobe Doin Work" and Nike's MVP puppet, Kobe almost seems, "normal". But this was all part of a well orchestrated PR campaign by Mr. Bryant. Seems like the Chosen One was taking notes.

Lebron is staring at free agency and potentially a new team, and what better way to start fresh then by switching numbers and embracing change. Obama would be proud. Lebron wants out of Cleveland, and it just seems like the wheels on the PR machine are spinning again. With a new city and a new number, Lebron can also work on HIS reinvention with a new start. As he matures, and forges his own path, the world will be introduced to the REAL Lebron. So go ahead and give props to MJ, but if you think #6 isn't attached to a legend, don't be surprised if you get a call...this guy named Julius Erving might want to talk to you.

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