For two decades in the league, Kobe Bryant strung together an incredible career that saw him firmly establish himself as an all-time great. The former LA Lakers great evenly split his playing days donning No. 8 and No. 24 that featured many iconic moments in each number. However, Bryant drew a stronger connection to No. 24 more for an on-brand reason.
Kobe Bryant’s illustrious career
Kobe Bryant cemented his status as an all-time great through his 20 seasons in the league.
Bryant became one of the all-time talents behind his incredible work ethic and internal drive to strive for greatness. These characteristics pushed him to earn five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVP awards, a regular-season MVP award, 15 All-NBA Team selections, 12 NBA All-Defensive Team nods, and his two jerseys retired with the Lakers.
He created numerous memories along the way through the triumph and struggles that engrained him as a legendary player in NBA history. All that also made it relatively easy for him to pick which number he wore was his favorite.
Why Kobe Bryant preferred No. 24 over No. 8
Over two decades in the league, Kobe Bryant put together an incredible career with the Lakers.
Bryant’s time included a number change to 24 before the 2006-07 campaign that saw him split his 20 seasons evenly. He achieved tremendous success with each number that saw him record nearly identical production through the totality of each span.
During the press conference before his jerseys retirement on Dec. 19, 2017, Bryant divulged why he was drawn to No. 24 over No. 8. (H/T NBA)
“It’s really really tough for me. 24 was more challenging and I tend to gravitate to things that are much harder to do. Physically for me it was hard for me to get up night in and night out. It was a grind. Taking on the Boston Celtics and having a bone fragment in my foot during that series and having a broken finger.
“Muscling through that back half of that career (were) some of the toughest stretches of basketball ever. So I guess if you forced me to pick one I would choose 24 because of that.”
Bryant’s response shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given his drive to take on challenges. That aspect alone drove him to take his game to the next level and establish himself as an all-time great. Bryant faced some tough challenges in the second half of his career that saw him lead the franchise back to relevancy to dealing with numerous injuries.
Tough journey wearing No. 24
Following the number change to 24, Kobe Bryant’s career took a unique pathway that featured tremendous ups and downs.
The Lakers weathered the storm of Bryant initially demanding a trade to him that quickly saw him become the central piece of a championship team. Alongside Pau Gasol, the two guided the franchise to three straight NBA Finals appearances with back-to-back NBA titles.
Bryant’s quote from the press conference touched on the injuries he dealt with during that time. He played through an avulsion fracture in his right index finger while working through knee swelling in his right knee, requiring a few instances of draining fluid throughout the playoffs.
Bryant managed to play at an elite level despite these injuries and willed the franchise toward the 2010 NBA title over the Celtics. However, the injury bug continued to plague him after that saw him suffer a torn left Achilles tendon in April 2013 that changed his career.
He returned from the injury to play the 2013-14 campaign but battled lingering injuries that limited his availability. Bryant suffered a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee that wound up forcing him to miss the rest of that season. The ailments continued to pile up the next campaign with a season-ending rotator cuff tear in his right shoulder in January 2015.
Bryant initially experienced success in the first half of the No. 24 journey, but injuries engulfed it in the back half of his career. He did manage to provide an iconic finish to his career in his final game with a 60-point performance. With all that in mind, Bryant drew much pride in his ability to step up to the challenge no matter how steep it was.