LeBron reminds us of other greats who wore multiple numbers on the same team

LeBron reminds us of other greats who wore multiple numbers on the same team

James switches back to his old No. 6, ditching No. 23 for the Lakers

That number looks familiar ...
That number looks familiar ...
Image: Getty Images

After a tumultuous 2018-19 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James tweeted this out, passive-aggressively declaring his intentions to change his number to six.

He was disallowed from doing so initially because he missed a deadline, Darren Rovell of the Action Network notes in a report:

“James had originally planned to give up No. 23 for the 2019-20 season, but missed the March deadline to declare a jersey change. Nike was given the chance to allow the NBA to approve the change anyway and denied it because of the glut of jerseys still on the market.

James quietly filed again without fanfare, made the deadline, and therefore allowed Nike to prepare, sources said.”

Throughout sports history, you’ll find a ton of athletes who were great while wearing multiple jersey numbers, but the class becomes tremendously downsized when applying the “same team” qualifier. And while rookies coming in with high uniform numbers before getting their permanent ones is a long list, the number of athletes who were great while wearing various numbers for the same team is scarcer. Here are a few of the best examples we’ve uncovered, and perhaps James will find himself there pretty shortly (like he isn’t already before even playing a game in his purple-and-gold No. 6!).

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Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati Reds, 30 / 3  

Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati Reds, 30 / 3  

Illustration for article titled LeBron reminds us of other greats who wore multiple numbers on the same team
Image: Getty Images

MLB Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. famously wore No. 24 with the Seattle Mariners but switched to No. 30 after being traded to Cincinnati prior to the 2000 season. The No. 30 was a tribute to his father, who wore the same with Cincinnati from 1973 to 1990. Griffey Jr.’s previous No. 24 had been retired (shoutout Tony Pérez). Then in 2006, Griffey Jr. changed his number to 3 in honor of his three children. As a No. 3, he made his last MLB All-Star team in 2007, recording 30 home runs and 93 RBI’s while hitting .277. It was the only season after 2001 in which he played at least 130 games.

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Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, 23 / 45 / 12 (!)

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, 23 / 45 / 12 (!)

Illustration for article titled LeBron reminds us of other greats who wore multiple numbers on the same team
Image: AP

The possible* (*we’re not doing this again right now) G.O.A.T. came out of retirement (and Minor League Baseball) rockin’ the No. 45 in the 1994-95 season, for which he only logged 27 total appearances, including the playoffs. Jordan emerged from his Birmingham regular season and averaged 26.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists across 17 regular season games, almost as if he never left. In 10 playoff games, he ran it up to 31.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists on 48 / 37 / 81 shooting splits, coming closer to the true Jordan, which led into the infamous 1995-96 72-win Bulls and subsequent MVP for His Airness. Jordan also netted 49 points in a game where he wore No. 12 on Valentine’s Day 1990. Because, of course, he did.

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Ron Darling, New York Mets, 44 / 12 / 15

Ron Darling, New York Mets, 44 / 12 / 15

Illustration for article titled LeBron reminds us of other greats who wore multiple numbers on the same team
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Ron Darling, one of the sneakily underrated pitchers of his time (and now a great broadcaster), triumphed individually while wearing three different numbers as a member of the New York Mets. Darling wore No. 44 in 1983 and kept it for his official rookie season of 1984, in which he finished fifth in Rookie Of The Year voting, accumulating a 3.81 ERA in his 33 starts. Beginning in 1985, Darling wore No. 12 and made his first All-Star team. In 1986, with the famed World Series-winning Mets, he finished fifth in Cy Young voting. And starting in 1989, he wore No. 15, and while still a productive pitcher, he won his first and only Gold Glove.

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Hank Aaron, Milwaukee Braves, 5 / 44

Hank Aaron, Milwaukee Braves, 5 / 44

Illustration for article titled LeBron reminds us of other greats who wore multiple numbers on the same team
Image: Getty Images

Hank Aaron is likely the best athlete to ever make the No. 44 a signature, but prior to becoming an All-Timer, he donned the No. 5 for the 1954 Milwaukee Braves, and although it was only one season, it was a damn good one. Aaron’s rookie season was his only non-All-Star campaign until 1976, the last before his retirement. He finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year, voting behind Wally Moon, Ernie Banks, and Gene Conley. Aaron finished the season with 131 hits, 27 doubles, 13 homers, 69 RBI’s, and had a .280 / .322 / .769 slash line through 468 at-bats. He won his first MVP three seasons later as a member of those same Braves.

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Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, 8 / 24

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, 8 / 24

Illustration for article titled LeBron reminds us of other greats who wore multiple numbers on the same team
Image: Getty Images

Bryant is the perhaps most notable example of an NBA player who changed numbers in his prime outside of Jordan or LeBron, and he did it while a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant famously rocked the No. 8 during the Shaq-and-Kobe days and even did so in his early era as essentially a one-man-show prior to the Pau Gasol trade acquisition of 2008. Bryant made the request to switch to the No. 24 in 2005 after Shaquille O’Neal had been traded to the Miami Heat, but, like James, he had to wait an extra season. Bryant has a Hall of Fame resume with two numbers, and is the only player in NBA history to have two retired numbers with the same team.

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