INDEPENDENCE — The number on LeBron James’ back will be different next season. The Cleveland Cavaliers can only hope the logo on the front of his jersey remains the same.
James has filed paperwork with the NBA to change his uniform number next season to No. 6 from No. 23, the league confirmed Tuesday. James said earlier this season he would be willing to give up No. 23 in an effort to have the NBA retire it in honor of Michael Jordan.
Paperwork had to be filed this week to request a number change for next season.
“All it does is back up LeBron’s beliefs,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “He’s a loyalty guy. When he believes in something, he sticks to his guns and he believes wholeheartedly in what he’s doing.”
James can become a free agent this summer. He would only need the league’s approval to change numbers if he remains in Cleveland. Should he sign with another team, James would be allowed to choose any available number without needing approval.
He dismissed a question about his future shortly after the Cavaliers beat the Knicks 124-93 Monday night.
“I stopped answering free agent questions a long time ago,” he said.
James, who declined interview requests on Tuesday, is going from one famous number to another. Julius Erving and Bill Russell both wore No. 6.
“The first thing I think of is Dr. J,” Brown said.
James wore No. 6 with the U.S. Olympic team and wears it every day in practice. He isn’t the first superstar to change numbers mid-career. Among others, Jordan briefly wore No. 45 after coming out of retirement with the Bulls, and Kobe Bryant more recently switched from No. 8 to No. 24.
“We remember the 8 on Kobe, but we also know the 24,” Cavaliers point guard Mo Williams said. “After a year or two, people will look past the old number and let it rest with Jordan.”
- Who: Cleveland at New Jersey
- Time: 7:30
- Where: Izod Center, East Rutherford, N.J.
- TV/radio: FS Ohio; WTAM 1100-AM