The time has come.
Kobe “Bean” Bryant has called it a career after 20 seasons in the NBA. The 15-time All-Star officially announced his retirement to the game of basketball. With emotions flaring, the Lakers organization knew a big decision was at hand, retire No. 8 or No. 24?
The case easily could be made for both numbers, but let’s begin with where it all started. In the iconic No. 8 jersey, Kobe was a three-time NBA champion and led the league in scoring back-to-back seasons. He dropped 40 or more points 67 times, teamed up with Shaq to form one of the greatest dynasties in Lakers history, and led the post Magic Johnson era of Los Angeles basketball.
When the Shaq-Kobe era dissolved, a new and (somehow) even more determined Bryant emerged as he began donning No. 24.
The new, polished, mature Kobe has rocked the No. 24 jersey for 10 seasons. During this stage, Bryant has won two titles, captured two Finals MVPs, gained four All-Star game MVPs and won his lone NBA MVP in 2008. Although the Mamba was starting to age into fine “vino,” the talent still made opponents look like cones at practice. He constantly challenged his teammates, and became the polarizing leader we all love (or hate) to this day.
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Sadly, this truly phenomenal career has come to a lackluster end. The constant injuries, poor shooting and awful teams have altered Kobe’s image. But even with his nearly unrecognizable play, now is the time to appreciate him for all he has given to the league.
Going down as one of the greatest Lakers of all time, Kobe’s 20 seasons with a single team are an NBA record. As the third all-time leading scorer behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone, both of Kobe’s jersey eras are certainly Hall of Fame worthy. No matter which number the Lakers choose to hang in the rafters, the other should remain off limits as well.
The Lakers can’t go wrong with whichever number they pick, but at the same time, a crucial part of their storied franchise is guaranteed to be missing from the rafters. If that doesn’t exemplify Kobe’s greatness, I don’t know what does.
Source: Los Angeles Times