A 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant is remembered in myriad ways by fans. He was immortalized by the franchise this week with the retirement of his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys.
Bryant is the only player to have two numbers retired. The decision to hang both of his jerseys in the rafters was both fitting and easy. Bryant spent the first 10 seasons of his career as No. 8, then another 10 while wearing No. 24.
He won championships as each, and an MVP Award in the latter stages of his jersey switch. Considering the amount of years spent wearing each number and the accomplishments that came with that, how Bryant is most remembered varies by age and generation.
The change came for the 2006-07 NBA season, which explains Brandon Ingram having fond memories of Bryant as No. 24.
“I probably have one or two memories of No. 8, but it was really No. 24 for me,” Ingram said. “But even watching some of the highlights before he changed his number, either number he was still a killer.”
As Bryant sailed off into the sunset, Ingram was championed as the first, next face of the Lakers. He was given Bryant’s old locker at Staples Center, and fully embraces the expectations that have been placed on his shoulders since being drafted second overall.
Ingram is among the young Lakers who have met with Bryant, and regardless of which jersey number he might recall the future Hall-of-Famer in, Ingram has learned plenty from the five-time champion.
“He’s an inspiration for how hard he works. He kind of sets the bar as one of the greatest players to ever play this game,” Ingram said. “When you come in here, you see all the accolades and everything he’s done, it’s crazy.”
Lonzo Ball’s interaction with Bryant to this point has been limited to a brief exchange between the two after the retirement ceremony concluded. Ball has openly called LeBron James his favorite player, in large part because of their similar style of play, but he too remembers the second act of Bryant.
“I think I know 24 more, because I was older when I was watching him,” Ball said. “But I saw eight as well, and both (eras) were amazing. I think 24 was more mature, and eight was more athletic, in my opinion. But, 24, he had all the footwork pretty much mastered. He was unguardable.”
Lakers head coach Luke Walton spent nine of his 11 years a teammate of Bryant’s. He experienced the good and bad that came with both jersey numbers. “He matured as a player and teammate,” Walton said of Bryant as No. 24.
“When I first got there, it was all basketball. As the team grew, as he grew as a player, I think he started to realize as being our leader, it was important he showed that off the court as well.
“As far as taking guys to dinner on the road, putting his arm around you if he felt it was appropriate. Now, it was a lot more tough love, but as he grew and the more years I was on the team with him, I saw him really embrace that overall leadership role and not just lead by example.”
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