LeBron James

LeBron James will join this list of NBA players with numbers retired by multiple teams

Michael Jordan is one of 16 players to have his number retired by multiple NBA teams...but one of the teams that retired his No. 23 might surprise you

LeBron James
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

There’s no greater honor for an athlete than having their number retired by a team. Actually, there is … having their number retired by more than one team. 

That’s an honor that has been bestowed upon only 16 players in NBA history. 

LeBron James one day will join that list, with his numbers likely to be retired by each of the three NBA teams he has played for to this point in his illustrious career.

He is the Cleveland Cavaliers’ all-time leader in most key statistical categories and delivered the franchise its first championship in 2016. He took his talents to South Beach and helped the Miami Heat win back-to-back titles. He’s now in Hollywood, where he so far has won one championship with the Los Angeles Lakers and became the league’s all-time leading scorer.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently said James already has done enough in gold and purple to have his number raised to the rafters in Los Angeles. And it will happen once he's inducted into the Hall of Fame. 

"When he does so, then we will retire his jersey," she said in an interview with Mark Medina of Sportskeeda. "Knowing that he will make it into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he will have his Lakers jersey retired, no doubt about it."

But which one? LeBron has worn No. 23 and No. 6 with the Lakers.

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If the team decides to retire both digits, as they did with Kobe Bryant's No. 8 and No. 24, James could become the first player in NBA history to have four retired numbers by teams he played for. That, of course, is assuming the Lakers do retire his No. 6, which has already been immortalized league-wide for Bill Russell, similar to how the New York Yankees did so with Mariano Rivera’s No. 42 that had already been retired across the league for Jackie Robinson.

Either way, quite a few numbers across the country will be out of circulation in the NBA because of LeBron James. 

Here are the 16 NBA players who already have their numbers retired in multiple cities.

Bill Russell - Celtics, all NBA teams

Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell received the ultimate number-retirement honor when the NBA announced after his passing in July of 2022 that his No. 6 would be permanently retired throughout the league. Russell, an 11-time NBA champion and a civil rights pioneer, became the first player to have his number retired league-wide. The Celtics retired Russell’s No. 6 in 1972.   

Wilt Chamberlain - Warriors, 76ers, Lakers

Only one player in NBA history has had his number retired by three teams that he played for: Wilt Chamberlain. The four-time MVP and seven-time scoring champion spent six seasons playing for the Warriors, beginning when the team was based in Philadelphia. He scored more than 20,000 career points with the team, including his 100-point performance. He then spent four seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and five with the Lakers, winning championships with each organization. 

Chamberlain’s No. 13 was retired by all three teams. The Warriors did so in 1999 after Chamberlain died, making him the first and only player to receive the honor from three teams. He’ll likely remain so until LeBron James inevitably has his numbers retired by the Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat

Pete Maravich - Hawks, Jazz, Pelicans

Pete Maravich also had his number retired by three teams, but he never played for one of them. The Pelicans, in 2002 after the then-Hornets relocated to New Orleans, honored Louisiana legend “Pistol Pete” by retiring the No. 7 he wore as a member of the New Orleans Jazz. The Jazz, of course, moved from New Orleans to Utah in 1979, keeping the ill-fitting team nickname, and also retired Maravich’s number. The Hall of Fame guard also had his No. 44 retired by the Atlanta Hawks, where he spent the first four seasons of his career.    

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Bucks, Lakers

No surprise that the NBA’s former leading scorer had his No. 33 retired by both teams he played for. Abdul-Jabbar spent his first six seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 30.4 points per game. He played 14 seasons with the Lakers, with whom he scored 24,176 of his 38,387 career points. 

Charles Barkley - 76ers, Suns

Kids today might not realize that before Charles Barkley was a lovable television analyst, he was a very good basketball player. “The Round Mound of Rebound” had his No. 34 retired by the Sixers, where he spent the first eight seasons of his Hall of Fame career, and the Phoenix Suns, whom he led to the NBA FInals in his first of four seasons with the team.

Kobe Bryant - Lakers, Mavericks

The two chapters of Kobe Bryant’s 20-year Hall of Fame career are divided by two numbers: 8 and 24. Both of those numbers have been retired by the Los Angeles Lakers in honor of Bryant, who won five championships with the team and became one of the greatest scorers in the history of the sport. On the day Bryant died at the age of 41 years old in a helicopter accident in 2020, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban released a statement saying, “Kobe’s legacy transcends basketball, and our organization has decided that the number 24 will never again be worn by a Dallas Maverick.”

Clyde Drexler - Blazers, Rockets

Clyde “The Glide” Drexler spent 12-plus seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, leading the team to two appearances in the NBA Finals. He was dealt to Houston during the 1994-95 season and helped the Rockets capture a second consecutive NBA championship. The Hall of Famer had his No. 22 retired by both teams.  

Julius Erving - Nets, 76ers         

Julius Erving had his number retired by two different teams … in two different leagues. Before the NBA merged with the ABA in 1976, “Dr. J” won three straight MVP awards and two championships with the New York Nets. He was dealt to the Sixers, winning a championship during his 11 years with the team. During his final season with Philadelphia in 1987, the then-New Jersey Nets retired the No. 32 Erving wore in the ABA. The Sixers later retired his No. 6.    

Michael Jordan - Bulls, Heat

You were expecting the Washington Wizards? With all due respect to “His Airness,” Michael Jordan probably shouldn’t be on this list. Make no mistake, based on his dominance and overall importance to the game of basketball, he is worthy of having his No. 23 retired by the Chicago Bulls and even across the league in the same way Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 is in hockey. But the Heat retiring his number despite Jordan having no ties to the organization other than defeating them many times, is kind of cringeworthy. 

“In honor of your greatness, Michael, and for all you have done for the game of basketball, not only the NBA but for all the fans around the world, we want to honor you tonight by hanging your jersey forever, No. 23, from the rafters of the American Airlines Arena,” Heat president Pat Riley said prior to Jordan’s final game in Miami in 2003. “No player ever again will ever wear No. 23 for the Miami Heat here. You’re the best.”

As for the other team Jordan actually played for, the Wizards, no Washington player has worn No. 23 since his final season, but the number has not yet been officially retired.     

Bob Lanier - Pistons, Bucks

Bob Lanier was drafted first overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 1970 NBA Draft and went on to become one of the great centers of his era. He spent 10 seasons with the Pistons, making the All-Star team seven times, and remains the team’s third all-time leading scorer and rebounder. He was traded to the Bucks in 1980 and went on to help the team reach the Eastern Conference Finals in 1983 and 1984. Lanier averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds over his career and had his No. 16 retired by both teams.  

Moses Malone - Rockets, 76ers

Moses Malone led the league in rebounding in three of his last four seasons with the Rockets and his first three seasons with the 76ers. Hence the reason he was known as “The Chairman of the Board” and hence why his No. 24 was retired by the Rockets and his No. 2 was retired by the Sixers. The Hall of Famer won two MVP awards while in Houston and added a third in his first season with Philadelphia while helping the 76ers win the NBA championship.

Earl Monroe - Wizards, Knicks

Earl “The Pearl” Monroe helped revolutionize the NBA with his school-yard moves. His impact was first felt in Baltimore, where he starred for the then-Bullets after being selected second overall in the 1967 draft. He was named Rookie of the Year, made two All-Star teams in his first four seasons, and led the Bullets to the 1971 Finals before being traded to New York. There he formed a backcourt with Walt Frazier and helped guide the Knicks to the 1972 Finals and to the 1973 NBA championship. Monroe had his No. 15 retired by the Knicks in 1986 (the team later retired No. 15 for a second time in honor of Dick McGuire, who played for the Knicks from 1949 to 1957). The Wizards retired Monroe’s No. 10 in 2007.

Dikembe Mutombo - Nuggets, Hawks

Any player who asks to wear No. 55 in Denver or Atlanta will have a finger wagged in their face. That number in both cities forever belongs to Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutumbo. Drafted fourth overall by the Nuggets in the 1991 draft, Mutumbo was an All-Star in his rookie season. He led the league in blocks for three straight seasons in Denver, helping the team become the first eight seed to upset a one seed in 1994 when the Nuggets stunned the Seattle SuperSonics. The Hall of Famer signed with the Hawks as a free agent and won three of his four Defensive Player of the Year awards while with Atlanta. The Hawks retired his number in 2015, and the Nuggets did the same the following year.

Shaquille O’Neal - Lakers, Heat

Shaquille O’Neal had a chance to become just the second player to have his number retired by three teams he played for. One of the most dominant players in NBA history, Shaq’s No. 34 was retired by the Lakers after he teamed with Bryant to win three straight championships, earning Finals MVP in each. When the well-documented Shaq and Kobe drama reached its peak, O’Neal was dealt to the Heat, where he joined a young Dwyane Wade and captured the organization’s first NBA title. O’Neal became the third member of the Heat to have his number retired when his No. 32 was raised to the rafters in 2016. Shaq’s original team, the Orlando Magic, has not done the same with his No. 32 despite O’Neal having put the team on the map, leading them to the NBA Finals in his third season.     

Oscar Robertson - Kings, Bucks

Oscar Robertson knows a thing or two about doubling up. The first player to average a triple-double in a season has his number retired by both of the teams he played for. Robertson spent the first 10 seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Royals, averaging 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists in his second season with the team. After 10 All-Star seasons, he was dealt to Milwaukee, where in his first season he teamed with Abdul-Jabbar to lead the Bucks to an NBA championship in 1971. Three years later, after Robertson retired, his No. 1 was retired by Milwaukee, and his No. 14 was retired by the then-Kansas City Kings, previously the Royals and soon to be the Sacramento Kings.

Nate Thurmond - Warriors, Cavaliers

All Nate Thurmond had to do was replace Chamberlain. When Chamberlain was traded by the Warriors in 1965, it was Thurmond who was left to fill his shoes. That season would be the first of seven All-Star selections for Thurmond, who averaged 17.4 points and 16.9 rebounds in his career with the Warriors. He spent his final two seasons with the Cavaliers, playing in only 114 games and averaging just 5.0 points and 6.3 rebounds over 18.7 minutes per. But the veteran presence he provided on a team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals, along with his status as a fan favorite, was enough for the Akron, Ohio, native to get his number immortalized in Cleveland – becoming the organization's first player to receive the honor. The No. 42 was retired by the Warriors and Cavs in honor of “Nate the Great.”

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