Friday, November 13, 2009
Last night Lebron James announced that he was planning to give up the number 23 at the end of the season and would be switching to the number 6. He intimated that nobody should be wearing #23 in the entire NBA.
"I just think what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized some way soon," James said. "There would be no LeBron James, no Kobe Bryant, no Dwyane Wade if there wasn't Michael Jordan first.
"If you see 23, you think about Michael Jordan. You see game-winning shots, you think about Michael Jordan; you see guys fly through the air, you think about Michael Jordan; you see fly kicks, you think about Michael Jordan. He did so much, it has to be recognized, and not just by putting him in the Hall of Fame."
"He can't get the (NBA) logo, and if he can't, something has to be done. I feel like no NBA player should wear 23. I'm starting a petition, and I've got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I'm not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it."
[Chicago Tribune,USA Today]
To the idea that #23 should be retired league wide, I say false. Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest NBA player of all time and many of the current NBA players aspire to be "Like Mike". But the retiring of a jersey league wide should be saved for something bigger than simply "best player of all-time"
The reason why Jackie Robinson's jersey is retired league wide is because of the cultural impact he made. Jackie Robinson was a trail blazer. He had to deal with intense racism. He paved the way for generations of African Americans and Latins to play in the league. He sent a message to the entire country that Black Americans were equal to White Americans. He paved the way for Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton to be the first African American to sign with an NBA team in 1950.
Michael Jordan did not make this kind of impact on America. Michael Jordan was a great basketball player and a great business man. Bill Russell was also a great basketball player, he won 10 titles, should #6 be retired? Wilt Chamberlain could also be considered the best player of all time, should #13 be retired? We can go on and on and on with different NBA players that made just as much if not more impact on the way the NBA is now. None of them are remotely in the class of Jackie Robinson when it comes to cultural impact and this is why none of them, MJ included, should have their jersey retired league wide.