Anthony Davis explains why he isn’t switching to No. 23: ‘The plan is to have No. 3 hanging in the rafters’


Anthony Davis wore No. 23 on his jersey during his entire run with the New Orleans Pelicans, and when he got the Los Angeles Lakers, the plan was for him to continue wearing that preferred number in purple and gold. The problem came down to merchandise. LeBron James was already wearing No. 23 at the time, and while he was willing to switch to No. 6 to accommodate Davis, Nike had a large supply of No. 23 James jerseys that would have become obsolete. James and Davis did not give them enough notice before the 2019-20 season, so the league forced James to stick with No. 23. Davis, in response, chose No. 3. 

But after the 2020-21 season ended, James announced he would be switching to No. 6, the number he wore in Miami. That opened up No. 23 for Davis if he’d wanted it, but he ultimately chose to stay put. He explained why on a Twitch stream (h/t Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll). According to Davis, “the plan is to have No. 3 hanging in the rafters.”

Even if Davis never plays another game for the Lakers, he has already accomplished enough wearing No. 3 to see that number retired. He was a First-Team All-NBA player on a championship team in No. 3, so Davis likely figures that there’s no reason to change things up. If he doesn’t win another championship with the Lakers, the second number will appear entirely superfluous. 

That is the conundrum James is facing. He has already won a championship in No. 23, so if he doesn’t win one in No. 6, his time in that number almost looks like a waste. Of course, James already has two championships wearing No. 6, they just came with the Miami Heat. In that sense, he has a bit less to lose than Davis in making the change. 

It’s important to note that the Lakers as an organization are entirely comfortable retiring multiple numbers for a single player. Both of the numbers worn by Kobe Bryant, No. 8 and No. 24, are in the rafters at Staples Center. James has likely already earned the retirement of No. 23, and if he wins a title in No. 6, that will likely be raised into the rafters as well. Had Davis made the switch to No. 23, the Lakers would’ve had a potentially interesting situation on their hands. Would they have retired the number with both “James” and “Davis” on the jersey? We’ll never find out, because Davis is sticking with the number that won him his first title. 

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