Fans who will have to adjust to seeing LeBron James don a Lakers uniform will have a little visual help.
James is to keep his No. 23, which he sported with the Cavaliers, on the court. During practices, however, he will wear No. 6, a homage to his Miami Heat stint, ESPN’s Darren Rovell twitted.
Neither of the numbers would spark any discord among the Lakers team. While icons such as Josh McRoberts and Adam Morrison had put on No. 6 before, and several less renowned players had claimed No. 23, there is no one to currently dispute the jerseys.
Told LeBron will wear #23 for games for the Lakers, #6 in practice.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 6, 2018
Only hours after the scoop, an NBA Store in Manhattan sold a score of LeBron James No. 23 Lakers jerseys, after the staff erroneously put them out in advance of the league’s official announcement about James’ number.
“Due to tremendous fan interest, the LeBron James Lakers jerseys were prepared to be put on sale at the NBA Store upon an announcement by the team,” an NBA spokesperson said in a statement. “Mistakenly, they were placed on shelves prematurely.”
The news comes amid another high-profile revelation in the saga of James’ transition to the Lakers. Earlier on Friday, the New York Post reported that James facilitated the Lakers’ $4.5 million, one-year contract with his nemesis, Lance Stephenson.
“I think when LeBron calls you up and says, ‘I want you,’ it’s hard for him to turn that down,” said Kevin Pritchard, president of the Indiana Pacers, where Stephenson played wing last season.
Stephenson and James have clashed on several occasions since the 2012 postseason. Stephenson sparked the beef with a choking gesture at James. It grew to include trash talk, ear-blowing and after-the-whistle antics – that have led to official punishment for both players – and prompted James to call Stephenson “dirty.”
While James is already proving valuable to his new team by helping recruit promising additions, he is also considering a play change with the Lakers. According to ESPN‘s Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, James is to shift from the perimeter to the post. The move will allow him to easily intimidate opponents and aid teammates.
As the ESPN commentators noted, the game tactic mirrors the decisions made by Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan to move to the post in their late careers as a way to compensate for their slower pace. It would free James from the expectation to shape up most of the offense, which will fall on the shoulders of players such as Stephenson.
James, who will turn 34-years-old in December, seldom played out of the post for the Cavaliers, where he frequently stepped up as the ball-handler and playmaker after the team traded Kyrie Irving.
“Unlike most free agents changing teams, LeBron is arriving with the Lakers as an all-time great,” a source close to James said, as cited by ESPN. “He doesn’t have pressure to prove anything. He wants some changes, and he can afford to let the process breathe.”