The Los Angeles Lakers have officially announced they plan to retire both of Kobe Bryant’s jersey numbers worn over his 20-year career.
The 39-year-old five time champion retired in April 2016 after his 20 years with the Lakers, scoring 60 points in his final game against the Utah Jazz. He finished as the Lakers’ all-time highest scorer and third on the NBA’s all-time list with 33,643 points.
“As a kid growing up in Italy, I always dreamed of my jersey hanging in the Lakers rafters, but I certainly never imagined two of them,” said Bryant. “The Lakers have bestowed a huge honor on me and I’m grateful for the fans’ enthusiasm around this game.”
The jerseys will be retired at a half-time ceremony on the 18th of December when the Lakers host the Golden State Warriors.
Kobe will become the 10th player in Lakers history to earn this distinction, joining Wilt Chamberlain (13), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25), Earvin “Magic” Johnson (32), KareemAbdul- Jabbar (33), Shaquille O’Neal (34), James Worthy (42), Jerry West (44) and Jamaal Wilkes (52).
The 18-time All-Star retired as the first player in NBA history to play at least 20 seasons with a single franchise. Kobe Bryant also helped lead the Lakers to five NBA Championships (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010), winning the Finals MVP honors in 2009 and 2010. He was voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008, and has been voted into the All-NBA First Team 11 times and the All-Defensive First Team 9 times.
Why two jerseys?
Kobe Bryant wore 24 during his high school career, before switching to 33. When he got drafted by the Charlotte Hornets and then traded to the Lakers in 1996, he wanted the number 33 but he couldn’t have it because it had already been retired for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, number 24 was also unavailable so he decided on number 8.
Bryant wore the number 8 for the first 10 years of his Lakers career, winning three championships along the way. In 2006, he switched to the number 24, going on to win a further two championships.
“Kobe’s jerseys are taking their rightful home next to the greatest Lakers of all time,” said Lakers CEO and Controlling Owner Jeanie Buss. “There was never any doubt this day would come, the only question was when. Once again, Lakers fans will celebrate our hero, and once again, our foes will envy the legendary Kobe Bryant.”
“This honor is very well deserved,” said Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “Kobe was one of the greatest Lakers and NBA players of all-time and he’s definitely on my Mount Rushmore. I look forward to seeing BOTH of his jerseys be retired and celebrating this special day with Kobe and his family.”