This past April, superstar guard Kobe Bryant played his last game for the Los Angeles Lakers before retiring. He spent 20 years wearing purple and gold and brought home five championships during that time, giving Lakers fans memories that will last a lifetime.
Now, with Bryant transitioning into the retirement phase of his career, questions have popped up regarding how the team will handle honoring the player who is arguably the greatest Laker of all time. There has already been some discussion of a statue being placed outside of the STAPLES Center, and most of the 2015-2016 season was spent celebrating his historic career, but the most polarizing issue revolves around which number will hang in the rafters.
Bryant spent the first half of his career wearing number eight, and the second half wearing 24, which is why the City of Los Angeles celebrated “Kobe Bryant Day” on August 24th. While the number change ended up perfectly marking the halfway point of Bryant’s NBA exploits, it does make things a bit tricky with regards to placing a “Bryant” jersey in the rafters alongside greats like Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, and many more. Historically the Lakers have only retired one number per player, which has lead to some debate over which one should be selected.
Bryant himself recently weighed in on the issue (via ESPN):
“[Whichever number is chosen] it’ll be pretty hard for someone else to wear the other one.”
Bryant is absolutely correct in his assessment of the situation. Regardless of which number the team ultimately decides to retire, the other one will also be essentially unwearable, as it will always be associated with the Black Mamba.
Really, it comes down to individual preference. If one number has to be retired, it seems that eight represents the Frobe days, when Bryant and O’Neal ruled the league while 24 leads to memories of the Kobe/Pau duo and the satisfying championship win over the Boston Celtics in 2010.
Either way, the Lakers can’t go wrong, but it will be interesting to see how they ultimately solve the problem.