Bradley Beal always wore the number 23, from AAU ball to preps to his single year of college. He had to switch to No. 3 when he was drafted by the Wizards, since that number's unofficially retired for one Michael Jeffrey Jordan. You'd think Beal would be honored. But no, it turns out, he wore 23 because he idolized LeBron James growing up.
"I never watched Michael Jordan growing up," said Beal, in what has to be a sick practical joke on those of us, who, you know, watched Michael Jordan. I'm having trouble processing this. 23 is Jordan's number, right? The greatest basketball player who ever lived?
"I grew up, '23' was LeBron," Beal continued. OK, let's math this. LeBron's 29, my age(!), and has been in the NBA since 2003. Beal is 20, so LeBron broke in when he was 10, the summer after Jordan retired for good. Damn it, it works. Those were Beal's formative years, and he likely has only the faintest memories of Jordan in a Bulls uniform. Beal is so young. We are all so very old.
LeBron, of course, originally wore 23 as a tribute to Jordan. This is like, as Drew puts it, "some guy post-Jesus saying 'I wear this cross because Ed wore it.'" Where does it end? Maybe Beal becomes a star somewhere, and some kid grows up and gets drafted and picks No. 23 because he always loved Bradley Beal. Time is inexorable and cruel.
Deep breaths. At least Beal has heard of Michael Jordan.
"I always knew about Michael Jordan, but I can't necessarily model myself after him. I always admired LeBron and the way he played all the time when he was in Cleveland."
There are kids out there right now, some of whom will be in the NBA within the decade, who have no idea LeBron ever played for anyone but Miami. Christ.
Bradley Beal wore '23′ for LeBron James [DC Sports Bog]