Perhaps the two most notorious numbers in basketball are Kobe Bryant’s 8 and 24. Bryant, who died in January of 2020, made the numbers famous, not just for what he was able to do on the court, but for what he was able to do off of it.
But you ever wonder what prompted his number change during the ’06-07 season? According to ESPN, it was a conscious effort by Bryant to start a new chapter of his career.
“It’s kind of a clean slate. I started new. Just start completely fresh, focus on the number that meant a lot to me.
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.
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.”
When Bryant wore No. 8, he was a player who was trying to develop and hone his skills. He was a superstar in the making. When he wore 24, Kobe was a much more experienced, polished, and poised player.
While he found success during both chapters, Bryant was almost a different player for each.
It was a fresh start and a new beginning for a guy who has gone down in history as one of the greatest ballplayers ever.
Both of his jersey numbers were retired in December of 2017.