LeBron James’ plan to allow Anthony Davis to wear No. 23 as a member of the Lakers have been halted, at least for the time being.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, players have to notify the league that they are changing their jersey numbers by March 15. James obviously didn’t know that Davis would be his teammate (at least not 100% certain) in March, so he made the request once the trade went through.
At that point, the decision was left to Nike, the NBA’s jersey manufacturer. If Nike was willing to switch James’ jersey number from 23 to 6, the exchange could have taken place. However, according to Haynes’ reporting, Nike already had too many James 23 jerseys to change course:
But due to production issues and the massive financial hit Nike would have absorbed from the No. 23 James inventory that’s already been produced, Nike could not accommodate the request for this season, sources said.
This does open the question of how players ever give jersey numbers to their new teammates if the decision has to be made by March. Perhaps Nike doesn’t have the same volume of inventory for the average player’s jersey as it does for LeBron James.
James will probably try again next season to give Davis No. 23, the only number he has worn in his professional career, provided Davis remains on the Lakers beyond his current contract. As for what number Davis will don this year, he told the LA Times that he wore No. 3 and No. 30 before high school, so he might turn the clock way back and recycle one of those choices. He could also wear No. 14, which is what he has worn in the past for Team USA. Given our inventory of jersey swaps, Silver Screen and Roll is partial to Davis selecting No. 20.
For fans who have lamented their Lakers jerseys becoming outdated soon after purchase (I myself own a now-vintage Brandon Ingram No. 16 jersey), at least the James No. 23 will live on for at least one more season. Hopefully, that number still has some magic left for one of the greatest to ever wear it.