Courtesy of NBA Fanhouse, Stan Van Gundy offers a sobering take on all of this:
“It’s a nice gesture, but he (Jordan) is not Jackie Robinson. Baseball did it because it had historical significance,‘’ Van Gundy said. "There actually were guys before Michael who could play the game. Then you should retire numbers that (Bill) Russell, Wilt (Chamberlain), and certainly Oscar (Robertson) wore. I understand LeBron didn’t grow up watching those guys, but still. ’’
“I’m just not one of those guys who thinks unquestionably that he (Jordan) was the best player of all time. I don’t buy that. We’ve had a lot of great players at a lot of positions, so what are you going to do? Retire all the numbers, and pretty soon our guys will be wearing No. 327 because all the two-digit numbers are gone.’’
“Michael was a great player, and if the NBA wants to decide that every other team in the league has to worship him, then that’s up to them,‘’ Van Gundy said. "Would I be for that? No.’’
And while I respect the opinion of Van Gundy—amidst the torrent of ‘Bron-tribute-coverage, I applaud it—he’s also dead wrong on this one. Jordan was absolutely a transformational figure in the NBA, and his number 23 is iconic for just that reason. It makes sense for the league to retire it sometime in the near future; it’s just a transparently market-motivated move for Lebron to be the one to lead that charge. It’s not his place to tell other players what numbers they can and can’t wear, but because it’ll help sell jerseys and makes him look deferential toward his elders, he wants to petition the league. Even if that comes at the expense of deference toward his peers.