By Brandon Sans
Yesterday, Michael… I mean Lebron James announced that he would be returning to his #23 jersey that he previously wore in his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2003-2010. Of course he is not the only basketball player that people recognize as having worn 23. This has re-sparked comparisons between the King and the “original” owner of the 2-3 (Which incidentally is the record of LeBron James in NBA finals.)
I believe his desire to wear the #23 has nothing to do with Michael Jordan. I don’t really hold those comments he made 4 years ago against him. He was a 25 year old young man who as well all can tell has matured in his time like Miami. The part of his Return Letter that I don’t think gets enough credit is the part where he described Miami as college for him.
According to Sports Illustrated:
“Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.”
Like any teenage basketball fan in the 90’s it was criminal to ignore the greatness of his Airness. Today the #23 is recognizable in almost every basketball country in the world as the Jordan Number. Likewise, I’m sure there are hundreds of players to this day donning the 2-3 in hopes of some of the magic rubs off on them.
Four years ago, LeBron had this to say regarding the Holy Grail of NBA Jersey numbers:
“He can’t get the logo, and if he can’t, something has to be done. I feel like no NBA player should wear 23. I’m starting a petition, and I’ve got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I’m not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it.”
In 2010, LeBron, who was 25 years old and proclaimed the “Chosen One,” drew comparisons and was measured against the man who is 6-0 in the NBA Finals and won six NBA Finals MVPs. There are many ways to dissect this. It could be considered as a possible allusion to joining the Miami Heat in that very same summer who has retired the #23 in honor Jordan in spite of him never playing a minute for the Miami Heat organization. Julius “Dr. J” Irving wore #6 and possibly James felt it necessary to pay homage to his second favorite player in his childhood.
The most likely scenario is that the then 25 year old King had grown weary of being judged against what ESPNs Stephen A. Smith described as a “the closest thing the game of basketball has to a deity.” Rather much like he escaped Cleveland he seemingly chose to escape the pressure of Jordan’s number.
Now here we all are four years later, and 2 championships, one gold medal and 2 MVPs later. He has evolved from a kid with unreachable expectations to a champion. LeBron has decided to come home. With it he dons the #23 again. This time, not as a way to be the next Jordan.
LeBron has matured and recognized that he isn’t the next Jordan. It’s time for the rest of us to accept that. While we all may renew the James-Jordan comparisons once again, this time I can guarantee that a certain Akron native won’t be caught up in the metaphor again.
“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.
I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.” -Lebron