CLEVELAND — Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James planned on rolling out the red carpet for recently acquired multi-time All-Star center Anthony Davis…and that welcome included parting with his No. 23, but Nike had other ideas.
Citing the amount of No. 23 James Lakers jerseys already produced for the upcoming season, officials at Nike put a haul to the proceeds, meaning the No. 23 is not going anywhere, at least not for this year. Should Davis choose to re-sign with the Lakers following the 2019-2020 season, then it is expected that James would give him the No. 23 and go back to the number he wore with the Miami Heat, No. 6.
“Due to production issues and the massive financial hit Nike would have absorbed from the No. 23 James inventory that’s already been produced, Nike could not accommodate the request for this season,” YAHOO! Sports’ Chris Haynes reported.
In 2015, James signed a lifetime endorsement deal with Nike reportedly worth over $1 billion paid out over the next 30 years.
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 Heat.
Davis returned the favor by reportedly turning down a $4 million trade kicker clause in his contract, which when coupled with another trade, gave the Lakers enough salary cap space to sign a free agent to a max contract.
The Lakers needed to retool the roster after a year full of struggles, which were immortalized in a video tweeted out by former NBA guard Rex Chapman, and the gag reel of the Los Angeles’ struggles during the 2018-2019 season were set to the NCAA Tournament staple, “One Shining Moment.”
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 the previous year with the Cavaliers.