LeBron James has been in the NBA since 2003, and he’s been one the league’s top attractions essentially since then. It’s no surprise that many of the younger players in the league grew up watching him, much like James grew up watching and idolizing Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.
As it turns out, Anthony Davis was one of those kids watching James when he was younger. To be teammates with James after all those years of admiring him from afar is something Davis is still grappling with, as he told Arash Markazi of the L.A. Times:
“I always looked up to him. As a kid, [James] and Michael Jordan were the two guys I [admired]. I didn’t get a chance to watch Michael Jordan live, but I watched LeBron a lot after he entered the league and he was the guy that I looked up to.”
Davis can learn a lot from LeBron given the similarity of their career paths. They were both heavily-hyped No. 1 draft picks expected to save their franchises, though neither of them were able to immediately. They both have skill sets that defy their position, they’re remarkable defensive players, and they’re able to command the offense from unusual spots on the floor. James eventually became a champion in his ninth season, and Davis wants to learn how to win while playing with James in his eighth year.
James has been the consummate teammate for Davis in the short while since the trade has been announced. Both players wore no. 23 last season, but James has already gifted the number to Davis. James will presumably revert to No. 6, which he donned for four years in Miami and still wears for the U.S. National Team.
After looking up to James and Jordan growing up, Davis has a natural attachment to the number 23:
“Being from Chicago, Jordan had 23 and he was my favorite basketball player for a while,” Davis said. “But honestly, I was No. 3 and No. 30 before I was No. 23. When I got to high school as a freshman, upperclassmen already had No. 3 and 30 and they get first say, so they pulled a jersey out of a bag and threw me the jersey and said, ‘This is the jersey you’re going to wear,’ and it just happened to be 23.
“Obviously, Jordan wore it and me being younger, watching LeBron, that number just stuck with me. It was definitely exciting to know I had that number to follow Jordan and LeBron, who wore that number as well.”
James’ first year wearing No. 23 for the Lakers didn’t go as planned, so in addition to being magnanimous towards his new superstar teammate, maybe he’s trying to change his juju. Either way, James will do whatever it takes to make Davis comfortable in Los Angeles, and his mentorship is off to a good start. Whatever numbers James and Davis are wearing, the important part is that they’re both in Lakers jerseys for a long time, and both excited to be there together.