Kobe Bryant died at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. There were eight other people were traveling with the retired NBA star, including Kobe’s daughter, Gianna, 13. There were no survivors.
As the world mourns the legend that was Black Mamba, his daughter Gigi, and the seven other victims, tributes poured in online and around the world to honor of their untimely passing. Fans of Bryant are wearing his jersey in his honor, showing either the No. 24 or 8.
When the Lakers return to the Staples Center on January 31, to play their first games since the passing of Kobe, half the fans will receive commemorative jerseys with the No. 8, while the other will be gifted shirts with the No. 24.
So, why did Kobe have two different jersey numbers?
Bryant wore No. 8 while growing up in Italy when his father Joe Bryant was playing in the European basketball leagues, but when he played at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania was No. 24. After graduating, he skipped college ball and entered the 1996 NBA Draft where he was selected as the 13th overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets. However, before the season started the Hornets traded him to the Lakers, where he historically remained for the entire 20 seasons of his NBA career.
Bryant wore No. 8 for the first decade with the Lakers. It’s the number he wore at Adidas ABCD Camp 143, which was a nod to the camp’s numbers summed up. Kobe said an interview with ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, “When I first came in at 8, is really trying to ‘plant your flag’ sort of thing. I got to prove that I belong here in this league. I’ve got to prove that I’m one of the best in this league. You’re going after them. It’s nonstop energy and aggressiveness and stuff.”
Bryant Changed To No. 24 For A ‘Clean Slate’
Kobe initially wanted to change his number from 8 to 24 during the 2005 season but missed the deadline. In the 2006-2007 season, Bryant officially changed his number to 24. Following a much-publicized arrest after being accused of sexual assault, charges of which were subsequently dropped in 2004 after settling the civil lawsuit, “It’s kind of a clean slate,” Kobe said. “I started new. Just start completely fresh, focus on the number that meant a lot to me.”
“It’s a new book, 24 — 24 is every day,” Kobe explained. “Because when you get older, your muscles start getting sore. Body starts aching. You show up to practice that day, you have to remind yourself, ‘OK, this day is the most important day. I got to push through this soreness. My ankles are tight, they won’t get loose. I got to go through it, because this is the most important day.’ So, 24 also helped me from a motivational standpoint.”
Kobe was a successful player in bother numbers. He scored 16,777 points as No. 8, and 16,866 as No. 24. He also won a title in both numbers.
The Los Angeles Lakers Retired Both Of Kobe’s Jersey Numbers Upon His Retirement
The Lakers retired both of Black Mamba’s career numbers, 8 and 24, in December 2017. Kobe was the first player in NBA history to have two numbers retired by the same franchise. He attended the retirement ceremony at the Staples Center with his wife Vanessa and daughters Natalia, Gianna and Bianka.
During Kobe’s emotional speech, former NBA star thanked his wife, whom he called “an inspiration,” and the Hall of Famers who came before him.
“I want to say, thank you so much for tonight,” Kobe said. “But it’s not about my jerseys that are hanging up there for me. It’s about the jerseys that were hanging up there before. Without them, I couldn’t be there today. They inspired me to play the game at a high level: Magic [Johnson], Cap [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar], Shaq pushing me every day. [Elgin] Baylor. [Walt] Chamberlain. [Gail] Goodrich. [Jerry] West. [James] Worthy. It goes on and on.”
Kobe also thanked his daughters, mentioning that even though they were born into a world of privilege, he will expect them to work hard in life.
You guys know that if you do the work, you work hard enough, your dreams come true. But hopefully, what you get from tonight is the understanding that those times when you get up early and you work hard, those times when you stay up late and you work hard, those times when you don’t feel like working, you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway, that is actually the dream. That’s the dream. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. And if you guys can understand that, then what you’ll see is you won’t accomplish your dreams. Your dreams won’t come true. Something greater will, and if you guys can understand that, then I’m doing my job as a father.