LeBron James has always had a lot of admiration for Devin Booker. When Booker was snubbed as an initial selection for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, James tweeted that Booker is the most disrespected player in the league. Booker has spent the last few months proving James correct, even if it came at the cost of knocking LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers out of the playoffs.
For years, Booker was known as an empty calories scorer — the type of player who could score 70 points in a game and still not be able to lead his team to a win. Booker has changed that narrative this year with an improved supporting cast headlined by the addition of Chris Paul. After failing to reach the postseason in the first five years of his career with the Phoenix Suns, Booker and his team are now on the precipice of a trip to the conference finals. Booker has definitively proven that he can put up huge numbers while still playing winning basketball.
Just ask James. Booker scored 47 points to eliminate the Lakers in Game 6 of their first round playoff series, ending the Lakers’ bid to repeat as champions earlier than anyone anticipated. After the game, James gave Booker another sign of respect by giving him his jersey and signing it. It was a nice moment between one of the league’s rising young stars and a historically great athlete approaching the twilight of his career.
Jersey swaps have become common in the NBA over the last five years. James giving Booker his jersey was a nice gesture, but it certainly wasn’t a big deal.
At least it didn’t seem like a big deal until Wednesday’s news that LeBron was changing his number to No. 6.
First look: LeBron James will change his Lakers jersey number to No. 6 next season after donning the number in his new movie “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” pic.twitter.com/VZksn1qVCy— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 9, 2021
LeBron wore No. 6 during his four years with the Miami Heat. He switched back to No. 23 when he returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he would occasionally still rock No. 6 in practice.
LeBron kept wearing No. 23 during his first three years on the Lakers, but only because the NBA and Nike blocked his request to change his number in 2019 because it had too many No. 23 James jerseys left to sell.
There are already conspiracy theories as to why James is changing his number. Part of this feels like a marketing ploy for this summer’s Space Jam sequel, where James wears No. 6 for the Tune Squad. Some think LeBron is trying to get two numbers retired with the Lakers like Kobe Bryant.
Devin Booker is the big winner in LeBron’s jersey number change
A signed, game-worn LeBron jersey is a valuable piece of memorabilia even without any other context. But the last game-worn No. 23 jersey? Now that could go for some serious money.
Booker signed a five-year, $158 million deal with Phoenix, so it’s not like he’s hurting for money. But in the event that he ever decides to sell the jersey, it could go for some real coin. A LeBron rookie card just sold for $5.2 million. This jersey has to be more valuable than that card, right?
Booker likely had no idea he was getting the last game-worn No. 23 LeBron jersey. We may never know if LeBron now regrets handing it over.