The Los Angeles Lakers will give Kobe Bryant an unprecedented honor when they retire both his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys on December 18 when they play the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center.
Retiring two jerseys is a huge gesture, but it makes sense on its face. Surely no other player was ever going to wear either jersey again no matter which one the Lakers retired, and if both numbers were separate players and Bryant’s career was split in two based on his jersey change, both No. 8 and No. 24 would be worthy of being retired anyway.
While obviously Bryant wasn’t literally two different players during his career, he did basically take on two different styles and personas in those two stages of his career, and he explained the differences during a sit-down with Complex:
“It’s crystal clear to me, because it’s almost two different people. Having a certain mentality of coming into the league where you’re literally headhunting everyone, because it’s your time to establish yourself and say ‘no, I belong here.’ So, as a result, everybody must go,” Bryant said. “And then when you hit a certain maturity level, which is where 24 comes in, it becomes less about domination and more about how can I help others grow? How can I lead a group of guys to get to a certain level as a group? That’s a really big distinction.”
Bryant was obviously younger, springier, and more prone to dole out savage posterizations when he wore No. 8, a style his quote captures well. No. 24 was more focused on leadership by necessity due to being the clear-cut best player on NBA Finals teams from 2008-2010.
That version of Bryant played more out of the post, using rock-solid fundamentals and technique to outsmart his opponents rather than simply willing himself through them. Both versions of Bryant were great, and thus it’s fitting that neither number will ever be worn by a member of the Lakers again.
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