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Monday, 28 July 2014 15:18

LeBron James back to #23: It's time to start asking some tough questions to The King!

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The sports and pop-culture world has fallen back in love with LeBron James. The prodigal son has returned and the city of Cleveland is just relieved to have a winter and spring of small businesses, bars, parking lots packed again. Cleveland deserves that right. 

As usual, the media has fallen head over heals for LeBron as he resurrects his good-boy image of his early-NBA playing days.  I truly hate to be a downer but, when are people going to start asking some real, valid and tough questions to LeBron James?

James' entire career has been full of unbelievable highlights, record breaking moments, NBA Finals appearances, and now 2 NBA titles. Conversely, and often not discussed, are the sins of LeBron, and their have been many.

While everyone else is celebrating LeBron's triumphant return to Cleveland, I would like to look a bit closer at his whole musical-number jersey swap. Here goes...

Haters gonna' Hate...

Because I have been a person not to support every move LBJ makes, I have been accused of being a "hater."

When we were children, our teachers told us that, if we tell ourselves something long enough, we will start to believe it. With that in mind, I have begun to embrace the "LeBron Hating" reputation. I am now a self proclaimed LeBron Hater.

That said, throughout James triumphant, tear jerking, Hallmark Card worthy return to Cleveland, I have kept my big trap shut, and my social media handles muted. Even I started to allow the heart-warming tale of LeBron's journey, his first time away from "home" get me a bit choked up. Then, reality sets back in...

He left in the most public way possible, bringing embarrassment to his "home" and hurting it's already struggling economy. He did this because he didn't believe the Cleveland Cavaliers would ever surround him with enough talent to win a title in that city.

All is forgotten now.

Life is back as it should be with the exception of one unimportant bit: would LeBron James wear the #23 or the #6?

That question was answered Sunday as LeBron James sent out an instagram message stating he would again be wearing #23. Now, LeBron's renaissance is complete.

Why isn't anyone asking any questions about this?

ESPN and NBA.COM are reporting that James wore the No. 23 from his rookie season in 2003-04 to the 2009-10 season, his initial stint with the Cavaliers, but he switched to his Olympic No. 6 when he went to the Miami Heat. James' number change at the time, he said, was partly to help the league honor Michael Jordan by permanently retiring his number across the league.

That's not exactly how it happened and I think LeBron fans (and league officials) need to take a closer look.  On the 14th of  November, 2009, LeBron started his campaign to have the NBA retired the number 23. He even went so far as to say,  "I just think what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized some way soon," said James, "There would be no LeBron James, no Kobe Bryant, no Dwyane Wade if there wasn't Michael Jordan first. He can't get the logo [Hall of Famer Jerry West's silhouette adorns the NBA's logo], and if he can't, something has to be done. 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."


What ever happened with that petition, LeBron? No further mention of it rang out of "the king's" mouth. Sounds like another post-game interview, unrehearsed and unscripted. I'm sure that LeBron's PR team worked long into the night on November 14, 2009 to compose a plan to start covering up LBJ's verbal, compulsive sins.

So, the year before he leaves for free agency, LeBron James feels so strongly about current players not wearing His Airness number 23 that he decides to retire that number for next season? His "retired #23 campaign" started as early as opening night 2009, and yet he waits to change to #6 until next season?

In 2009, no one really thought anything suspicious about this sudden change in jersey numbers. Most people that it was just another immature marketing ploy from the King of Self Promotion, to sell more jerseys.

Boston Celtics' fans, on this very network, were outraged by LeBron's choice to change numbers was because of MJ's great contributions to the game. Yet, he changes to the best winner in sports history? The jersey number of Mr. William Russell. Not to mention, the ORIGINAL Michael Jordan, Doctor J. also dawned #6.

No one was suspicious. No one pushed the story any further. As a matter of fact, no one ever heard another thing about LeBron's petition. It was a dead issue.

Fast forward 7 months.

LeBron James has made his decision to take his talents to South Beach on national tv in what turned into the worst moment of his career, not on the hardwood.

I recall for a brief period of time, a small burst in the blogging community, cited the coincidence of LeBron's jersey change and the fact that his new "home," the Miami Heat, had already retired number 23.

Coincidence or Corruption? That's for an unbiased, possibly only a non-NBA fan can decide.

My take is this:

As early as his high school years, LeBron James has been cheating the system. His family awarded his mother (?) a new Hummer while living in Akron Ohio and still attending high school.

LeBron had been courted by college and professional basketball teams to take his talents to their squad.

LeBron James saw to the termination of NBA legend Paul Silas in his rookie season. Prior to leaving Cleveland for the warm beaches of South Beach, LeBron saw to the dismissal of Cleveland coach, Mike Brown.

LeBron had been surrounded by talent thru the later years of his tenure in Cleveland, notching 60 plus win seasons for consecutive years.

In 2010, the very year he announced his jersey change, and ultimately his team change, we watched LBJ stumble thru the NBA playoffs. Allegedly suffering from an elbow injury, never heard of again, James put in one of his worst EFFORTS against his arch rival Boston Celtics in the conference semi finals. The Cavs were elliminated from game 6 of the series by the C's. I had never witnessed a superstar quit on his team, on such a public stage, as James did that year.

The TD Garden crowd rang down chants of "New York Knicks" [it was suspected at that time that LBJ would join the Knicks during free agency] on LeBron has he clanked shot after shot.

LeBron James effort was so poor that I remember watching the game, in TD Garden, and thinking aloud to a fellow press member, who would want this guy leading their team?

Those questions remain for me. His move to South Beach bought his resume 2 NBA crowns, yet he needed the leadership and talent of 2 superstars along side him to get it done.

Many questions about LeBron James integrity and leadership remain. I will be asking questions all season-long.

It's the popular coverage model for sports outlets, such as CLNS, to cower down to the media pressure to adore LeBron but I will not do it. At least not without continuing to ask some very difficult questions of the King.

Nick Gelso

Nick Gelso is the Founding Partner and CEO of North Station Media, CLNS Radio. Gelso has been covering the NBA and Boston Celtics since 2008. He has locker room experience and is an accomplished NBA columnist and radio personality. Gelso has appeared on Boston radio, Las Vegas television, ESPNBoston, CBS Sports. He is co-host of CLNSRadio's flagship production, the Celtics Late Night Show and co-owner of CLNSRadio.


Additionally, Gelso is the co-host of Beats & Eats Podcast. Beats & Eats is an entertainment, foodie and pop-culture podcast network. Beats & Eats hosts podcasts from Hell's Kitchen Chefs' Barret Beyer & Anthony Rodriguez. Actors such as Lydia Cornell and Matt Fahey. Technology expert, and CLNS Columnist, Rich Conte. Hell's Kitchen Chef Dan Ryan hosts a reddit-based, pop-culture podcast. Chopped Chef, Rob Burmeister & Hell's Kitchen Chef, Clemenza host the culinary-comedy podcast, "Chewing the Fat with Big and Beefy."



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