CLEVELAND — Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James is rolling out the red carpet mat for recently acquired center Anthony Davis…and that welcome includes parting with his No. 23.
Through league sources, Yahoo! Sports learned Thursday that James is “gifting” his No. 23 to Davis for the upcoming 2019-2020 season.
Starting with his days as a prep superstar at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, James has been synonymous with the No. 23, as he wore it for 11 years with the Cleveland Cavaliers and during his first season with the Lakers. The only time James did not wear the No. 23 in his NBA career came during his four-year run with the Miami Heat, where he donned the No. 6.
Davis returned the favor by reportedly turning down a $4 million trade kicker clause in his contract, which when coupled with another trade, gives the Lakers enough salary cap space to sign a free agent to a max contract.
The Lakers needed to retool the roster after a season full of struggles.
From team issues with now-former coach Luke Walton to James’ pulled groin muscle, the Lakers had no shortage of moments that derailed their pursuit of the postseason for a sixth consecutive season and resulted in a 37-45 record and 10th place finish in the Western Conference.
Limited to 55 games because of the mid-season groin injury, James averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 51 percent from the field, 33.9 percent from three-point range and a career-worst 66.5 percent from the free-throw line in his first year with the Lakers.
James’ numbers in every statistical category declined from his last year with the Cavaliers.
Late in the regular season, James was the subject of a video tweeted out by former NBA guard Rex Chapman, and the gag reel of the Lakers’ struggles during the 2018-2019 season were set to the NCAA Tournament staple, “One Shining Moment.”
The video opens with James dancing while sitting on the sideline and cuts to Kyle Kuzma doing shoulder shrugs on media day, as well as Lance Stephenson emphatically playing the air guitar after a basket and Rajon Rondo straightening Walton’s collar during pregame introductions.
And who could forget about Michael Beasley wearing the wrong shorts and having to sub out to return to the locker room before even entering the game?
In the on-court action part of the video, there is James throwing an inbounds pass off the backboard for a turnover in Phoenix and Kuzma shoving him to get in better position to play defense, as well as a host of airballs from various players and a fight between Rondo and Houston’s Chris Paul.
Also, there were those awkward moments where teammates missed high-fives or seemingly ignored them altogether and Rondo sitting among the first row of fans rather than on the bench in the waning seconds of a game.
During the second half of the video, James is shown walking up the court while the Rockets push the tempo in transition, and then, letting a ball roll up the floor and out of bounds before picking it up.
In the final seconds, the video shows Houston’s James Harden throwing down a dunk and “posterizing” Lakers center JaVale McGee and James getting blocked by New York Knicks forward Mario Hezonja in the final seconds of a game at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Following the block, James is shown dropping to one knee in frustration while Hezonja points and laughs at the 16-year professional.