While the Los Angeles Lakers underwent several changes during the offseason, namely signing LeBron James in free agency, Josh Hart saw a new development on a personal level. After wearing jersey No. 5 in his rookie season, Hart switched to No. 3 moving forward.
It’s the number Hart wore at Villanova University, where he won an NCAA title in 2016. It wasn’t an option to him, however, after being selected with the last pick in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft and traded to the Lakers.
While Hart went on to have an impressive rookie season that thrust him into the conversation as being a member of the Lakers’ talented young core, he nonetheless capitalized on the opportunity to change.
When he was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for Lakers Night at Dodger Stadium, Hart explained the thought process behind his change, via SportsNet LA:
“Number three is my number since I was a kid. I came in and Corey Brewer, Brewski, had No. 3, so I was kind of bummed I couldn’t get it. And then he left and I was like, ‘I can’t switch a number midseason.’ So I’m just going to let it rock out (with number five). Then I.T. got it, and I was a little nervous with what he was doing in free agency. When I saw he was going to Denver, I was like, ‘I got to get it.’”
While Hart made the change under his own volition, he admitted to having some regret over it and mentioned he could revert back to wearing No. 5 at some point:
“It’s a solid number. I really grew to love five. Like I had this (Dodgers) jersey with No. 3 and was like, ‘Oh, that looks a little different now.’ I forgot what I looked like wearing a number three jersey. And people called me ‘cinco.’ I kind of liked that. It had a nice little ring to it. … I might have to switch it up later. I could do like a Kobe Bryant thing, but with three and five.”
While he was still wearing No. 5, Hart played his way to earning Las Vegas Summer League MVP honors. The Lakers initially planned for him to play just one game in Sacrament and one in Las Vegas, but that changed at Hart’s request.
Now he heads into training camp with an opportunity to push Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for the right to start at shooting guard. Head coach Luke Walton said the Lakers will allow players to compete for starting jobs alongside LeBron James, with decisions made based off personnel fit.