Why Did Kobe Bryant Have Two Jersey Numbers?

There are many things that Kobe Bryant can be remembered by in his illustrious career that spanned over two decades in the league; all spent with the Los Angeles Lakers. That also saw Bryant decide to switch jersey numbers from eight to 24 in the middle of his career that saw him experience a tremendous amount of success in that second number. It’s a decision that Bryant did explain why he chose to go that route.

Kobe Bryant’s change from 8 to 24

Through the first 10 years of his career, Bryant donned No. 8, where he experienced a tremendous amount of success.

It was a number that he initially chose because it was based on his Adidas camp number, 143, as these numbers add up to eight. According to Baxter Holmes of ESPN, Bryant described his No. 8 jersey as being a time in his career where he was trying to prove himself.

“When I first came in at 8, is really trying to ‘plant your flag’ sort of thing. 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.”

Before the 2006-07 season, Bryant chose to switch it to 24 for the remainder of his career. The decision to change to that number was something that he voiced that he had initially desired to wear as it was his first number at Lower Merion High School, but couldn’t wear it as George McCloud had it when he joined the Lakers.

He also couldn’t wear No. 33, which was the other number he wore in high school as it was retired to honor Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Nonetheless, Bryant said that it was a number that gave him a “clean slate” and a period of his career where he truly matured as a player.

“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.”

In short, these two numbers represented two very different periods in Bryant’s career that combined to form an illustrious career that saw him cement himself as an all-time great.

Kobe Bryant’s production: 8 vs. 24

With that being given more clarity on why he decided to go that route, it does bring up the question about the success that he had in both uniforms. What is most telling is that he experienced almost the same amount of production and success with each number.

When he wore No. 8, he scored 16,866 points with three NBA titles, a scoring championship, and eight All-Star selections in 707 games played. That included him tying the all-time mark with 12 three-pointers in a game, 62 points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks, and 81 points against the Toronto Raptors.

Meanwhile, his days wearing No. 24 saw him record 16,777 points with two NBA titles, two Finals MVP awards, a scoring championship, an MVP award, 10 All-Star Game selections in 639 games played. That saw him reach feats such as setting the record at Madison Square Garden with 61 points, becoming the first player to have 30,000 points, 6,000 assists, and 6,000 rebounds and moved to third all-time in scoring in NBA history.

It’s hard to argue which chapter is more significant, but it speaks to the tremendous talent he was in both stages of his career.

Kobe Bryant is No. 8 and No. 24

The two numbers that Bryant wore throughout his career represent two different times in his life on and off the court.

At the same time, they are both very much a part of how he was and the person he has become. The fact that he achieved nearly the same amount of success is quite fitting as it further underlines his incredible commitment, dedication, and drive he had for his craft.

Bryant was a one-of-a-kind player that made a tremendous impact on the game of basketball. He has ingrained himself in the fabric of the league as you can’t tell the story of the NBA without him.