LeBron James' Number Switch: A Tribute To Jordan or Marketing Strategy?

Christopher Lane II@@ChrisLane_IIContributor IIMarch 2, 2010

CLEVELAND - MAY 01: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts after beating the Boston Celtics 101-93 in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 1, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James finalized paperwork to officially change his number after this season.

He has decided to drop the No. 23, in a "tribute" to Michael Jordan, according to James, and take No. 6, the one he had previously worn in the Olympics.

James had previously mentioned his intentions of honoring Jordan by switching his number in November, stating that the number should be retired by every team, much like Jackie Robinson's No. 42 in Major League Baseball.

The thing about this switch is the fact James keeps saying that it is strictly because of Jordan, and that there are no other intentions behind the move.

The fact of the matter is that since Jordan went to No. 45, only to later switch back to No. 23, there has been a couple Nike-sponsored players to make a switch of number.

Kobe did it a couple years ago, switching from No. 8 to what he currently wears, No. 24.

Why the change?

The intentions of the change are simple. With the old jerseys being taken off shelves in just about every store, the new jerseys will be out on the market. The switching of numbers then makes the market for a James' jersey brand new, basically.

This will lead to an increase in sales, because who wants to be the guy with the old James jersey on at the game?

How many kids will really settle for a defunct No. 23 James jersey when they can have a "new and improved" No. 6 jersey?

The answer to the questions is the same: not many.

The switching of the jersey number to increase marketing is a great strategy, especially for James, who is intent on making his brand global.

The world already associates the No. 23 with Michael Jordan, and when it comes to athletes, their number is a recognizable factor of themselves. People associated the number with the athlete who wore it, in a sense.

So why wouldn't James want to "create his own identity" in an attempt to further the growth of his brand without being constantly compared to the other No. 23?

The number switch is understandable, but his reasoning doesn't match up.

If he is honoring Michael Jordan by not wearing his number, why would he then switch to a number worn by two of the greatest players of all-time, Bill Russell and Julius "Dr. J." Irving (when playing in Philadelphia)?

Of course, many consider Jordan to be the greatest, but it is Bill Russell who has more championship rings than fingers (11 total championships), who dominated on defense while anchoring the Celtic's dynasty, and who was an African-American star in Boston during an era of racial strife.

To me, it seems as though James is trying to distance himself with the man he has been constantly compared to since he became a high school star, Michael Jordan.

At the same time, it seems as though James is trying to cash in on changing his jersey, if he doesn't officially change teams this summer. James will be forced to wear the No. 6 if he decides Cleveland is where he wants to stay, but if he leaves, he can choose any number he may please.

One thing is for sure, James has seen how Kobe Bryant’s switch has propelled him to the top of NBA jersey sales, with James coming in second to Kobe every year since his switch to No. 24.

So LeBron, cut the act and tell us straight.

This switch is to further increase your marketability and your brand, not just to honor Michael Jordan.


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