Posted: Tuesday, December 19, 2017 – 11:24 AM
The Los Angeles Lakers retired Kobe Bryant’s jersey numbers 8 and 24 in a halftime ceremony at Monday evening’s game against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center.
“It’s not about my jerseys that are hanging up for me, it’s about the jerseys that were hanging up there before,” Bryant said. “Without them, I couldn’t be here today. They inspired me to play the game at a high level.”
Bryant went on to praise what he called “this class organization,” thanking the team’s late owner Jerry Buss for “believing in a skinny old kid from Lower Marion High School” in the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore.
Team CEO and controlling owner Jeanie Buss, a daughter of Jerry Buss, said “We are retiring both your numbers because if you separated each of the accomplishments under those numbers each of those players would qualify for the Hall of Fame.”
Bryant became the 10th player in Los Angeles Lakers history to have a number retired, joining Wilt Chamberlain (13), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25), Earvin “Magic” Johnson (32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), Shaquille O’Neal (34), James Worthy (42), Jerry West (44) and Jamaal Wilkes (52).
All are members of the Basketball Hall of Fame. A player must be fully retired for four full seasons before being eligible to be selected for the Hall of Fame. Bryant will be eligible to be selected in 2021.
Bryant originally wore number 8 when he started his Lakers career in 1996, but switched to 24 after the 2005-06 season.
Bryant retired after the 2015-16 season, scoring 60 points in his final game. He ended his career with 33,643 points, the third most in league history, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928).
Bryant officially became a Laker on July 1, 1996, when the team completed a previously agreed-to trade with the Charlotte Hornets, who had chosen him five days earlier with the 13th choice in the NBA draft as part of the trade agreement with the Lakers.
He played his entire career with the Lakers, helping the team win five NBA championships.
Bryant’s 20 seasons played with one organization is an NBA record. He is among five players to play at least 20 seasons in the league, along with Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis, who all played 21, and Abdul- Jabbar, who played 20.
Bryant was the league’s MVP in the 2007-2008 season, received All-NBA honors 15 times, including 11 first-team selections, and was chosen to play in the league’s All-Star Game 18 times.