CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers’ jerseys have changed since LeBron James last wore the wine and gold four years ago.
James’ number, however, will remain the same.
James announced Sunday that he will wear No. 23 in his Cleveland comeback, simultaneously releasing the news on all three of his social media accounts.
“23 it is! It’s only right I go back,” James posted. “2 x 3 = 6 We still family 6. #HomeTeam #StriveForGreatness #IPROMISE.”
The decision was made nine days after the four-time NBA MVP posed the question “6 or 23?” to the world via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Cavs fans reacted enthusiastically in favor of No. 23, which James first sported as a sophomore at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
Four national sports polls also supported his return to the number by a combined margin of 54 to 46 percent.
While the news was very well-received in Cleveland, the NBA’s licensing partners were downright giddy about it.
Demand for James’ new Cavs jersey was so great that the league’s official store stopped accepting pre-orders for it last week, knowing it would take weeks to fulfill existing sales once a decision was made.
The Cavs team shop continued to log orders for his future uniform, with prices ranging from $49 for a youth replica to $300 for an adult authentic. The least expensive adult version is $69.
James wore No. 23 during his first seven NBA seasons with the Cavs, but switched to No. 6 when he joined the Miami Heat as a free agent in July 2010.
Midway through his final season in Cleveland, James said he believed that No. 23 should be off limits everywhere because of Michael Jordan, prompting his change.
That statement was viewed suspiciously — then and now — because Heat president Pat Riley had already retired No. 23 in honor of Jordan, who never played for Miami.
James, who first wore No. 6 while playing for the United States Olympic team, has led the NBA in jersey sales six times in his 11 professional seasons. He also donned
No. 32 as a freshman at SVSM because No. 23 was unavailable.
James is one of 11 players to wear No. 23 with Cleveland — and will undoubtedly be the last before it is raised to the rafters at Quicken Loans Arena.
The others are Gary Freeman, Rowland Garrett, Mike Bratz, Bruce Flowers, Tyrone Corbin, Chris Dudley, John Morton, Rod Higgins, Carl Thomas and Derek Anderson.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
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