In the week
since LeBron James’s announcement that he would be returning to the Cleveland
Cavaliers, one question has loomed large among the star’s fans: what number
will the two-time NBA champion and Cavaliers’ all-time leading scorer wear on
his jersey when he steps back onto the court?
excited particular interest on July 18, when James himself put the question to
his followers via Twitter and Instagram:
6 or 23?...... http://t.co/8uft5F7XO8— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 18, 2014
holds particular significance for both James and the basketball world. No. 6,
the number James wore in the Olympics and throughout his time with the Miami
Heat, represents a powerful tie to the team with which he garnered many of his
greatest accolades. No. 23, on the other hand, was the number of Michael Jordan
– arguably the most renowned of all players in basketball history. In James’s
own words, “I just think what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be
recognized in some way – soon… If you see 23, you think about Michael Jordan….
He did so much, it has to be recognized, and not just by putting him in the
Hall of Fame.”
The gravity of James’s decision quickly became evident, with the original post stimulating thousands of retweets and sites across the Internet seeking feedback from users through surveys and discussions. One ESPN poll had received over 140,000 responses by midday on the 18th.
Using its proprietary Live Search function, DataRank analyzed a sample size from the 500,000 Tweets about LeBron James posted on July 18, 2014 in an attempt to predict James’s choice based on fan feedback. Querying for natural language based around sentiment toward what the player “should” or “ought” to do, DataRank found that 57% of the comments expressed a preference for the retention of #6.
Can't figure out which number I think LeBron James should wear. 23 is MJ's number. 6 is the sell out to Miami number. I'm leaning 6 though.— Joe DiSpirito (@JoeyD203) July 20, 2014
Comments also tended to follow a regional pattern, with users in and around Cleveland inclined toward #6.
Either of LeBron’s choices will ultimately represent a tie to the player’s past – either a personal connection to former glories or identification with a revered fellow athlete. And if James does indeed take his fans’ sentiments into consideration, his decision might well corroborate predictions formulated from a close examination of online conversation.