Should The NBA Have a League-wide Retirement on No. 23?


Ever since the 90’s, the NBA has been ran by the No. 23. Whether it’s current face of the NBA, LeBron James or his airness himself, Michael Jordan; the significance of the number twenty-three will always resonate with the NBA’s undisputed top two players of all-time.

So should the NBA have a league-wide retirement on the number 23 out of respect for Michael Jordan and LeBron James?

Well this gesture has only been done in two other major sports leagues (NHL and MLB). Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 was retired league-wide in respect for his legacy as the first black MLB player in league history and Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 was retired by the NHL for his legacy as the greatest player in their league history.

Since the first black NBA player came into the league in 1950 (Earl Lloyd), LBJ and MJ couldn’t have met that standard to retire twenty-three across the NBA, but the debate that happens in just about any conversation regarding either player of whether LeBron or MJ is the GOAT justifies that this number is already legendary enough to be eligible for a league-wide retirement.

In fact, there was an attempt to do this same act back in 2010 for Michael Jordan.

This was the offseason where King James took his talents to South Beach and ended up changing his number to 6, all while being an advocate for a league-wide retirement of Jordan’s number.

“Jordan did a lot for the game, more than just on the court,” James said. “He was bigger than the game, but always stayed inside the game, if you understand what I mean. He set it up for a lot of guys like myself. His influence to the game is way more than what he did on the court.” (NBA.com)

Photo from Time

While James was playing in Miami, it wasn’t even an option for him to wear the number due to Pat Riley honoring Jordan in 2003 by retiring his number despite the fact that he never was a member of the Miami Heat; “No one will ever wear number twenty-three for the Miami Heat. You’re the best.” Riley said about Jordan.

There are many players who would support this, especially with highly respected players and former players being behind it in the past. Nearly ten years later, there’s all the more reason for this number to never be worn by another NBA player again.

It would be very difficult to make this token of appreciation go into full affect since there are currently 17 NBA players sporting the number, but due to Adam Silver’s flexibility as commissioner so far, it’s realistic to see a possibility of this happening at some point in time when LeBron James (33 years old) retires.

Now it would be a much simpler process if all 30 teams were in an agreement much like all 31 NHL teams were for Gretzky’s league-wide jersey retirement so commissioner Silver wouldn’t have to get involved.

Not all teams should feel obligated to retire the numbers for LBJ and MJ’s sake if they’re one of the other teams who have already had historic No. 23’s play for their franchise though.

It’s safe to say that without this league-wide honor, at least three franchises will retire the number 23 in the near future (Cleveland – L. James, New Orleans – A. Davis & Golden State – D. Green). Causing there to be nearly 1/3 of NBA teams to have that number retired.

With so many teams already having the number retired or being retired in the future, it won’t cause any harm for teams to start a movement for the most remarkable players in league history.

For current players with the number, the ones with their own legacies in their franchise should be able to continue to wear the number until they retire or end up on another team, but ones that aren’t under the radar as much should defer the number in James and Jordan’s honor giving the teams a chance to retire it.

Photo from Steemit

As long as these players can still be respected with their own legacies, what would be a valid reason to deny this honor? More importantly, why wouldn’t the NBA want to create more history?

LeBron and MJ have made constant history in the NBA, together they combine for 9 MVP’s, 28 All-Star appearances, 15 All-Defense selections, 25 All-NBA selections, 53 Player of the Month awards and 9 NBA Championships.

With all of their career achievements and records, it’s only fitting that they deserve one last tribute to represent both of their historic careers.

“I just think what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized some way soon,” LeBron said about a league-wide retirement on No. 23 back in 2009. (ESPN.com)

No other number in NBA history can compare to the prestigious number 23. There have been prominent numbers where multiple hall of famers have worn the same one many times. But it’s rare that you find a number that aligns with only two hall of fame level players, such as:

3 – Dwyane Wade & Allen Iverson/Chris Paul

6 – Bill Russell & LeBron James

21 – Tim Duncan & Kevin Garnett

22 – Elgin Baylor & Clyde Drexler

33 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Larry Bird

34 – Hakeem Olajuwon & Shaquille O’Neal/Charles Barkley

Even with those examples, none of the two have changed the landscape of the NBA like LeBron and Michael and none of the others on that list are both arguably top 2 players of all-time like James and Jordan either.

Michael Jordan should be given some type of league-wide endowment for his effect on the game of basketball and the fact that LeBron James’ career isn’t even over yet further proves that he should be given one too when he retires.

As long as we continue to place these players on the same pedestal, we must place that number on it as well. Young kids all over the world wear that number for either LeBron or Michael, you’re not going to see a high school or AAU basketball player wearing 23 on his back for Ersan Ilyasova or Ben McLemore. So let’s give the respect that these legends deserve and retire the number league-wide for good.




About Juwan M. Davis

Editor/Writer for NBALEAD. Born and raised in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Living in Los Angeles. Minnesota Timberwolves fan. Twitter: @JuwanMalikDavis

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