Number 24 or number 8? Eventually this is a question that will face the Lakers' front office. You see, Kobe Bryant has played for only one team, but with two different numbers on his jersey. Where as Michael Jordan wore two numbers during his career, No. 23 as he reigned as king of the league during the Chicago Bulls dynasty and up to his first retirement, and No. 45 upon his several returns thereafter, Kobe has maintained his stature in the league during one continuous stretch and with just one dynastic team.
It was almost a scenario that never would have come to be, the number-retirement debat that is. Bryant wanted to wear the same number he wore in high school, No. 33, but was forced to change because the Lakers had already retired the number, previously worn by Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Bryant then picked No. 8. And No. 8 provided many memories for LA fans, such as winning the 1997 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, three-peating with Shaquille O'Neal as NBA Champions. And who can't remember that famous day when Kobe Bryant dropped eighty-one points on the Toronto Raptors? All wearing No. 8.
By the way, this is still currently the second highest points-scored in a single game behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point performance.
Remember when Kobe hit a buzzer beater in the 4th quarter to send the Lakers into overtime with the Phoenix Suns in 2006? Then again in overtime he hit another shot to win the game! Unfortunately, the Lakers ended up losing the series 4-2. But still, memorable moments for No.8.
Kobe played in a total on 707 games as number 8. He averaged about 35.69 minutes per game. His field percentage was pretty high at .4515. Free throw shooting was superb at .834.
Bryant spent 10 years wearing number 8. From the day he was drafted till the 2005-2006 season.
While he was wearing the number 8 people still considered the Lakers to be Shaq's team and not Kobe's.
In 2006 Bryant's jersey was actually No.4, but I digress. Before the 2006-2007 season, Bryant changed his number to 24, the number he wore up until his senior year of high school (when as previously mentioned, he switched to No.33).
And well, no.24 has been awfully good to Laker fans as well.
In 2008, Kobe, along with his new teammate Pau Gasol, led the Lakers to the NBA Finals again, only to wind up losing to the Boston Celtics 4-2 in a six-game series. That year Kobe won his only regular season MVP award though. Oh, and he also scored 62 points in Madison Square Garden in a game against the Knicks, just to add another memorable moment to our list.
In 2009 the Lakers went to the finals again, this time against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. They won the series, giving Bryant his fourth Championship and the finals MVP award. The very next year in 2010, the Lakers went to the finals yet again, this time in a rematch of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. The Lakers won in seven games, giving Bryant his fifth championship and second finals MVP.
This season, on March 30th, Kobe passed Wilt Chamberlain for fourth all time in scoring. Next up is Michael Jordan on the list, Bryant's idol.
As a historic career begins to wind down, the question the Los Angeles Lakers will inevitably face is should they retire number 8 or number 24? Bryant is going into the Hall of Fame when he is done playing, that much is certain, so it's worth some early consideration. With Bryant currently rehabbing from a serious injury and not expected to play again until December or January, it begs the question, how much longer does the face of the Lakers' franchise have left in the league?
When he goes, will it be No.8? Or No.24? One of those numbers will be hanging in immortality in the rafters at the Staples Center. It's just a question of which one.