Kobe Bryant’s outsized career warranted outsized recognition, and the Lakers found a perfectly fitting honor. They retired both his No. 8 and No. 24 in 2017.
Now, people are searching for the appropriate way to commemorate the unprecedented basketball giant who died so young. Many tributes – including teams opening games with 24-second then 8-second violations – have focused on his numbers. Hawks guard Trae Young wore No. 8. Any 8, 24 or 81 appearing in a box score have become a topic of discussion.
Sources: Multiple NBA players have begun informally retiring Kobe Bryant’s jersey number(s) as a tribute — with Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie among them, changing from No. 8 to No. 26.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 28, 2020
Marc Stein of The New York Times:
The NBA typically makes players wait for a new season to start to allow players to change a jersey number but Dinwiddie has been granted permission to make the switch to No. 26, according to a source familiar with the decision
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) January 28, 2020
Beyond Dinwiddie, players who wear No. 8:
- Kemba Walker (BOS)
- Bismack Biyombo (CHA)
- Zach LaVine (CHI)
- Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)
- Markieff Morris (DET)
- Alec Burks (GSW)
- Justin Holiday (IND)
- Maurice Harkless (LAC)
- Jahlil Okafor (NOP)
- Danilo Gallinari (OKC)
- Terrence Ross (ORL)
- Zhaire Smith (PHI)
- Frank Kaminsky (PHO)
- Trevor Ariza (POR)
- Bogdan Bogdanovic (SAC)
- Patty Mills (SAS)
- Emmanuel Mudiay (UTA)
- Rui Hachimura (WAS)
Players who wear No. 24:
- Bruno Fernando (ATL)
- Lauri Markkanen (CHI)
- Mason Plumlee (DEN)
- Alize Johnson (IND)
- Dillon Brooks (MEM)
- Pat Connaughton (MIL)
- Khem Birch (ORL)
- Kent Bazemore (SAC)
- Buddy Hield (SAC)
- Norman Powell (TOR)
- Miye Oni (UTA)
- Garrison Mathews (WAS)
Anyone who wants to honor Bryant giving up No. 8 or No. 24 should. Who’s anyone to tell them that’s the wrong way to grieve and pay tribute?
But other players will want to wear No. 8 or No. 24 to honor Bryant. That’s just as respectful. I hope they aren’t peer-pressured out of doing so.
Some players who want to wear No. 8 or No. 24 in memory of Bryant might even be among those giving up the number now.
In 2009, LeBron James – who was wearing No. 23 with the Cavaliers – said the NBA should retire No. 23 for Michael Jordan. He pledged to kickstart the movement the next season by changing his own number. He signed with the Heat – who already retired No. 23 for Jordan despite him never playing for them – and wore No. 6.
LeBron returned to Cleveland in 2010. His number during his second Cavs stint? No. 23. His number with the Lakers now? No. 23.
People change their minds on these things – especially when the cloudiness of grief subsides. Individual players should choose their number as they see fit.
So, I hope this doesn’t turn into a formal league-wide retirement of Bryant’s numbers. It seems more fitting – outside the most extreme cases, like Jackie Robinson in baseball – for that to remain a team honor.
Bryant is headed to the Hall of Fame. That’s the way to ratify his legacy through all of basketball.