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NBA star James returns to jersey No. 23 in Russell tribute

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers (right) will change his number to 23. Photo: Thearon W. Henderson / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

LeBron James will switch his jersey number from 6 to 23 for his 21st NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers announced.

The move, confirmed Saturday night on social media by the Lakers, is a tribute to the late NBA legend Bill Russell, whose jersey No. 6 was retired last year after his death, James’s agent Rich Paul told ESPN.

Players who were wearing 6, like James, were allowed to continue wearing the number. James did so for the 2022-23 campaign in honor of Russell, an 11-time NBA champion and five-time NBA Most Valuable Player, but has decided to show his respect this season by picking another number.

It’s the fourth NBA number change for James, who returns to 23, which he wore to start his career and at stops throughout his two decades in the league.

James wore 23 in high school and when he first played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. When he left the Cavs for the Miami Heat in 2010, he changed to 6 as the Heat had retired 23 as a tribute to NBA legend Michael Jordan.

In 2014, when James returned to the Cavaliers, he switched back to 23 and kept that number until 2021, when he went back to 6 so new Lakers teammate Anthony Davis could have 23, a number Davis ultimately did not take.

James, who was wearing 6 when he set the all-time NBA scoring record last season, announced on Wednesday that he would play in the NBA for a 21st season.

The four-time NBA champion and four-time MVP turns 39 in December and has said he would like to play in the NBA alongside his son Bronny James, who is set to be drafted next year.

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