As Kobe Bryant’s Jersey Numbers Are Retired A Video Shows That Basketball Was Always His #1
When Kobe Bryant became a Los Angeles Laker, his two high school numbers were not available. #33 was out of the question, the retired jersey belonging to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Between Fred Roberts and George McCloud, #24 was also not available. The 18-year-old from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania adapted and got in where he fit in. Wearing #8 (as a nod to his Italian playing number and the sum of his Adidas ABCD Camp triple-numeral number), Bryant would help lead “The Lakeshow” to three championships. Later in his career, as a seasoned veteran (and a proven G.O.A.T. contender), he won two more, draped in #24. That era followed the franchise parting ways with Shaquille O’Neal and building solely around Bryant. Also, Kobe had a taste of public scrutiny following a sex scandal.
Tonight (December 18), both of Kobe’s numbers are retiring at The Staples Center. A season after his NBA retirement, the future hall of famer becomes just the 10th Laker with the honor. He played so incredibly in L.A., that in an ESPN report the franchise insisted on both numbers being taken out of commission.
“When I first came in at 8, is really trying to ‘plant your flag’ sort of thing,” Bryant tells ESPN. “I got to prove that I belong here in this league. I’ve got to prove that I’m one of the best in this league. You’re going after them. It’s nonstop energy and aggressiveness and stuff.” Of the other period, he says, “Then 24 is a growth from that. Physical attributes aren’t there the way they used to be, but the maturity level is greater. Marriage, kids. Start having a broader perspective being one of the older guys on the team now, as opposed to being the youngest. Things evolve. It’s not to say one is better than the other or one’s a better way to be. It’s just growth. It’s a new book, 24 — 24 is every day. Because when you get older, your muscles start getting sore. Body starts aching. You show up to practice that day, you have to remind yourself, ‘Okay, this day is the most important day. I got to push through this soreness. My ankles are tight, they won’t get loose. I got to go through it, because this is the most important day.’ So, 24 also helped me from a motivational standpoint.”
Motivation is key. Bryant has released a short film, Dear Basketball. The ESPN report says (per one of Bryant’s reps) that this five-minute short has been “short-listed” for an upcoming Oscar.
Journalist Baxter Holmes asks Kobe what that honor would mean in such a trophy-filled career. “It would mean more to me than all the other awards,” Bryant responds. “Because it’s not something I’ve ever expected to do. It’s not something I was supposed to be able to do. As a kid, I grow up, I have dreams of winning championships and MVPs and all this other stuff. It’s something that I have in my mind. It’s a goal. Life deals you these cards, injuries happen, things happen, you pivot, and then write something that comes from the heart…especially for us athletes, you’re supposed to just really do one thing. You’re not supposed to be able to do anything else.”
The animated video, by Disney’s Glen Keane, puts Kobe’s 2015 “Dear Basketball” essay to motion:
From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:
I fell in love with you.
A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.
As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.
And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.
I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.
You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.
And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.
And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1
Love you always,