The New Orleans Pelicans recently took a 10-day flier on veteran point guard Isaiah Thomas. Entering his 10th NBA season, Thomas has not played in a single game since Feb. 3, 2020, when he scored nine points and had four assists for the Washington Wizards.
Thomas also spent half a season with the Los Angeles Lakers, getting to play for the same franchise as one of his all-time favorite players in Kobe Bryant.
Thomas has long been open about the fact that Bryant is one of his heroes and the reason he decided to play basketball. So, when Thomas signed his 10-day deal with the Pelicans, there was only one jersey number he felt comfortable wearing.
As a tribute to the late Lakers legend, Thomas will wear No. 24 with the Pelicans, the team and Thomas announced on Twitter:
For 24 ❤️ pic.twitter.com/0IUpGG68Gn
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) April 4, 2021
Since the tragic death of Bryant over one year ago, players have taken two opposing routes to honor him. Some — including the entire Dallas Mavericks organization — have decided that retiring Bryant’s No. 24 is the way to go. Meanwhile, some have chosen specifically to wear the jersey number as tribute.
There is no right answer, as it’s simply incredible to see Bryant being intentionally honored by players who grew up watching the Black Mamba. Almost every player currently playing watched Bryant while growing up, and several got the chance to be mentored first hand by the Lakers legend.
Looking around the NBA today, it’s apparent how much Bryant has influenced players and the game as a whole. Hopefully, as we continue to move further past a horrible day in January of 2020, the NBA and its players continue to honor one of their all-time greats.
For Thomas, hopefully this opportunity with the Pelicans serves as an opportunity for him to show he is healthy and can still play. He has been through so much in regards to injuries over the last few years and it has been unfortunate to see him essentially out of the league because of it.
Signing with the Pelicans also gives him a chance to reunite with Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, who he played with for short time on the Lakers. All of the young guys have talked about how Thomas served as a mentor to them, and now there is a chance to continue building those relationships in New Orleans.
In Thomas’ debut with his new team, he scored 10 points to go along with two rebounds and two assists in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo extremely happy to win All-Star Game MVP award
Beyond players like Thomas wearing the No. 24, the NBA will continue to officially honor Bryant with the All-Star Game MVP award that was named after him in 2020. Kawhi Leonard was the first-ever winner, but it was Giannis Antetokounmpo who took home the 2021 edition.
“Obviously, I’m extremely happy at just having the award with the name of Kobe Bryant in my house,” Antetokounmpo said after the game. “It’s a great feeling. I wanted to win the one last year really bad and I had a chance to win because I felt like I wanted to have the trophy in my house, but this year I wasn’t even thinking about winning it, I was just thinking about having fun, and I had the opportunity to play well.”
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