The Miami Heat got its man Thursday night, when Cleveland Cavaliers free agent LeBron James announced he would be playing in South Florida.
Now James has his number, too.
Heat point guard Mario Chalmers has handed over No. 6 to James, after wearing it during his first two NBA seasons. He instead will wear No. 15.
For Chalmers, it isn’t exactly a sacrifice. He wore No. 15 while playing collegiately at Kansas and wanted to wear it after being acquired by the Heat in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft, but Heat center Mark Blount was wearing it at the time.
Chalmers wanted to switch last season back to No. 15, after Blount was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the offseason, but made his intentions known too late. The Heat instead kept the number open for a future change.
James has worn No. 23 during his first seven seasons, but announced, after a November appearance last season at AmericanAirlines Arena that he planned to shed the number out of respect to legendary guard Michael Jordan.
Jordan was in attendance at the Heat-Cavaliers game the night James made his announcement, with the Heat having raised Jordan’s No. 23 Chicago Bulls jersey to its rafters out of respect for his contributions to the sport.
“I just think what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized some way soon,” James said at that November game. “There would be no LeBron James, no Kobe Bryant, no Dwyane Wade if there wasn’t Michael Jordan first.”
With former Los Angeles Lakers guard Jerry West the inspiration for the NBA logo, James said a league-wide retirement of No. 23 is an equally fitting tribute for Jordan, who now is the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
“He can’t get the logo, and if he can’t, something has to be done,” James said in November. “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.”
Several NBA players continue wear No. 23, most notably Phoenix Suns guard Jason Richardson.
The only Heat players to have worn No. 23, before Heat President Pat Riley had it retired, were John Morton, Tyrone Corbin, Gary Grant, Rex Walters and Cedric Ceballos.
No. 6 is James’ Olympic number. He also had worn it during practices with the Cavaliers.
James said he has valued the number because it was worn by Philadelphia 76ers legend Julius Erving and because his first child was born on Oct. 6 and his second was born in the sixth month of the year, June.
Meanwhile, fellow Heat newcomer Chris Bosh was given his choice of No. 1. That likely does not bode well for Heat free-agent forward Dorell Wright, who has worn that number during his six-year South Florida tenure.