Choosing a jersey number in the NBA can be dicey territory sometimes. The league has a long history, and organizations have retired so many jersey numbers over the years that there’s often not a lot to choose from. That means players sometimes have to forego the numbers they’ve worn in the past that are meaningful to them in some way.
For instance, when Kyrie Irving joined the Boston Celtics last summer, he wasn’t able to continue wearing the No. 2 that he wore in Cleveland. That’s because the Celtics – who have retired a whopping 23 numbers in their rafters – had already retired the No. 2 in honor of legendary coach Red Auerbach.
But no matter. Irving simply switched to No. 11, which is what he wore in high school. And now that the Cavs’ incoming rookie Collin Sexton – who they selected with the No. 8 pick in the draft last week – has joined the organization, Irving says he’s fine with Sexton wearing the No. 2 jersey, which is what he wore during his freshman season at Alabama.
Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News asked Irving about the sudden controversy regarding Sexton’s decision, and Irving shrugged it off and said he was just excited to see what Sexton could do on the floor and said there’s no hard feelings on his end.
“Go ahead, do what you do. He wanted to wear the number, let him wear the number. It doesn’t matter.”
“I gave a lot of commitment and sacrifice to being there from Day 1. So to have that six-year span of doing some unbelievable things, I’m definitely happy about it. Never shy away from that in terms of Cleveland giving me an opportunity to be a 19-year-old kid wearing No. 2. It’s just the transition in the league. It happens all the time. The story is probably going to the number. But I’m more excited about who (Sexton) is as a player in the league. The number thing is like, just chalk that up to the game. It’s cool. It’s no hard feelings from my end. He just has to start at the chopping block just like everyone else did. So I’m excited for him.”
Sexton already made a bit of splash when he used his post-draft interview as an opportunity to pitch LeBron on staying in Cleveland. It was a great moment from an enthusiastic young player who’s simply elated about the prospect of playing alongside the greatest player of this generation, although like the rest of us, he’ll have wait to patiently as LeBron embarks on what promises to be a free agency thrill ride, regardless of his protestations that he prefers something more low-key this time around.