Updated Nov. 24
LeBron James says he wants to pay tribute to Michael Jordan by switching over to Bill Russell's number.
|Wilt Chamberlain's dominance sparked rules changes long before Michael Jordan ever laced up his high-tops. (Getty Images)|
Forget what it says on the back, it sounds to me like LeBron is looking for an excuse to print a new name on the front of his uniform next season.
I'm not here to tell anyone where to play. But when it comes to Jackie Robinson-type tributes, let's get something straight:
Major League Baseball didn't retire Robinson's No. 42 because he was the greatest player of all time. It was done to honor the impact he had on the sport -- and sports in general.
If LeBron wants to say Jordan is the MVP of NBA history, he's welcome to do so. But when it comes to changing the game ... please.
No one stands taller than Wilt Chamberlain.
The Dipper was so dominant in his day, rules had to be changed to allow even Russell to be competitive.
Some would say they were good changes -- instituting offensive goaltending and widening the key, for example. Others would argue making Chamberlain stand farther from the basket is akin to permitting a guard only two dribbles per possession.
The point is: Basketball doesn't have to go to the latter extreme, because LeBron can be stopped. Chamberlain couldn't.
Everyone knows about his 100-point game, but here's the true testimony to Chamberlain's dominance: Playing in an era of great centers, he still averaged almost 23 rebounds per game over the course of his career.
Who is the most dominant player in NBA history?
Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Total Votes: 5,975
That's more than double the number that's getting some of today's big men into the Hall of Fame.
Imagine if Jordan scored twice as many points as the other top players. That would have meant averaging more than 50 a night.
And if Magic Johnson had twice as many assists as other elite ball-handlers. We're talking 20 a game.
Neither -- and in fact nobody -- has come close to such unimaginable figures.
You want to retire a number? Tell Steve Nash, Tyreke Evans and about a dozen other NBAers who wear Wilt's No. 13 to show some respect and try something new next season.
I got an idea: Switch over to No. 23. You know, the guy who has the league changing rules -- allowing his two-step to the hoop this year -- to help him dominate games, rather than bringing him back to the pack.
As a tribute to Chamberlain (OK, and the fact that Pau Gasol's return makes them the best team in the league), I have moved the Lakers -- one of three teams to have retired the No. 13 jersey -- to the top of this week's CBSSports.com NBA Power Rankings.