Former Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is set to have both of his career numbers retired on December 18, when the Lakers play the Golden State Warriors at the Staples Center. One might ask if Bryant or any other NBA athlete deserves more than one of their jersey numbers retired.
Bryant put up significant contributions while wearing both the No. 8 and No. 24 jersey, all of which continued the winning legacy of the franchise.
The No. 8 jersey represents Kobe’s nascent years in the NBA, which had bouts of hardship, triumph, and controversy. However, the then young high school prodigy proved himself worthy of the purple and gold after spending his first two years with low minutes.
The 18-time all-star spent 10 years in the No.8 jersey, some seasons coming in second or third to the team in scoring next to NBA Icon and analyst Shaquille O’Neal.
He competed in the 1997 slam-dunk contest and was named on the All rookie second team. While wearing No. 8, Bryant made the All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team four times.
Fans voted the young guard as an NBA All-Star eight times. For four consecutive seasons, Bryant was the leading scorer of the Lakers. The culmination came in the 2005-06 season when Bryant averaged 35.4 points per game, the best average in the NBA that year.
Bryant scored 16,866 points from the 707 games played for the Lakers those first ten years. With No. 8 Bryant’s help, the team won 514 in-season games.
The Philadelphia native helped the Lakers secure five division titles and it’s not easy to forget the three-peat championships. With Shaq, Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher, and Rick Fox, among others by his side, the Lakers were a dynasty at the turn of the millennium. Out of all three NBA Finals seven-game series, Los Angeles lost only three games.
The number eight also represents what critics might say is an immature or more arrogant Kobe Bryant.
Despite their ability to win games and dominate the league, Bryant and O’Neal struggled to cooperate. When Shaq left the Lakers for the Miami Heat in 2004, many put the blame on Bryant.
After changing his number to 24, his talent also made that jersey significant. The no. 24 jersey appeared in 10 All-Star games, including times where Bryant could not play due to injury.
For seven seasons, Bryant led the Lakers in scoring and rebounding; his best average was 31.6 in points during the 2006-07 season and 6.0 rebounds during the 2012-13 season.
In a span of 639 games, Bryant earned 16,797 points.
Another championship team formed around No. 24 Bryant and Fisher; drafting Andrew Bynum, Sasha Vujacic, and Jordan Farmer, and acquiring Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Shannon Brown.
While the three-peat echoed the dominance of the Lakers Showtime era, the resurgence of Los Angeles in the late 2000’s resurfaced a historic rivalry between them and the Boston Celtics. Like when Jerry West succumbed to Bill Russell and when Magic Johnson could not stop Larry Bird, Bryant fell to Paul Pierce in 2008.
However, Bryant found his vengeance in 2010, when the Celtics faced lost to the Lakers in the NBA Finals. The number 24 is most poignant; this was the number Kobe wore when he collapsed to the court with an Achilles injury. Bryant played his final game in the No. 24 jersey, a thrilling 60-point performance.
Like how Los Angeles has two college and pro football teams, Kobe has two numbers and both deserve to be retired. One represents his immense contributions and the other represents his unerring loyalty.