The Los Angeles Lakers are preparing to immortalize Kobe Bryant by hanging his jersey high in the rafters of the Staples Center and retiring his number. Which jersey the Lakers decide to retire—No. 8, No. 24 or both—is the only lingering question ahead of the festivities.
A case could easily be made for both jerseys.
No. 8 has sentimental value — it’s the jersey Kobe wore during his rookie season. It marked the beginning of his Hall of Fame career. He played in 10 NBA seasons while wearing the No. 8 jersey, scoring 16,877 points, making eight All-Star appearances, and winning three NBA championships. He also had more hair back then.
The No. 24 jersey feels more “Black Mamba” than the original. Kobe played in 10 NBA seasons wearing that jersey number. His career-ending stats were 16,178 points, nine All-Star appearances and two championships. He didn’t have as much hair, but he did manage to win his only league MVP award in 2008. The sentimental value with this jersey is its representation of the final stretch of his career.
Asking anyone to pick between the two is cruel and unusual punishment. Or, perhaps we’re saps for a perfect ending to an all-time great career. There’s no use in making this thing any more difficult than it needs to be. Bryant played the game on a historic level while wearing both jerseys for the same amount of time.
It’s only fitting that both jerseys are raised and retired in the rafters. This is Kobe Bryant we’re talking about. Is anyone really going to make a fuss?
According to TMZ.com, the event has tentatively been scheduled for December 18, which is the same night the Lakers are scheduled to play the Golden State Warriors. If anything, it should provide a welcome distraction on a night the team goes head-to-head with the defending NBA champions.
“The Lakers aren’t officially acknowledging it — but the team sent a letter to Lakers season ticket holders advising them to “hold on to your tickets for the game on Dec. 18” for a “special event.” We’ve made some calls and everyone’s saying the same thing … it’s Kobe’s big night. The big question… which number will go up in Staples Center — #8 or #24 … or both? [Our money’s on both].”
It wouldn’t feel right to watch a young player run up and down the floor in either of Bryant’s jerseys. He was a Mount Rushmore kind of talent, and his retirement should be respected in the same manner.