Five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP awards, one regular season MVP award and 18 All-Star selections are just some of Kobe Bryant’s achievements in the Los Angeles Lakers jersey. On Monday, at the halftime of the game against the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers paid him respect by retiring not one, but two of his jerseys. Numbers 8 and 24 are now hanging in the Staples Center alongside the jerseys of Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. There were 9 Lakers players who got their jersey retired before him, but only Bryant had the honor of getting two jerseys retired.
“We’re here to celebrate the greatest who’s ever worn purple and gold,” – said Magic Johnson, current president of basketball operations of the Lakers.
“It’s not about the jerseys that are hanging up there for me,” – said Bryant in his speech. “It’s about the jerseys that were hanging up there before. They inspired me to play the game at a high level.“
— NBA (@NBA) December 19, 2017
Kobe Bryant changed his jersey number from 8 to 24 in 2006 but had success with both of them. Asked about which one he prefers, Bryant said “Eight has something that 24 will never ever ever ever have. And that’s the ability to grow hair.”
After being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft, the 17-year-old Bryant was traded to the Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac. He was welcomed in the team by Shaquille O’Neal, but the duo couldn’t get to the NBA Finals until Phil Jackson assumed the head coaching position in 1999. Under Jackson, Bryant has managed to win three straight NBA championships and establish himself as one of the league’s best players. After the three-peat, Bryant continued to grow as a player, but the Lakers were unable to win a championship.
It wasn’t until 2008–09 season when Bryant was able to lead the Lakers to another championship. And, in the following season to one more. After that, Bryant went on chasing his sixth championship but riddled with injuries and other problems, Lakers slowly lost their title of the Western Conference powerhouse.
Kobe Bryant retired from NBA on April 13, 2016, in the game against the Utah Jazz, when he scored 60 points.