Los Angeles Lakers retire both of Kobe Bryant's jerseys

ByABC7.com staff KABC logo
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant arrives for a halftime ceremony, retiring both of his jersey's during an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017.
Former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant arrives for a halftime ceremony, retiring both of his jersey's during an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons with the same organization, scored five NBA titles, and he once hung 81 points on the Toronto Raptors. Through it all, No. 8 and No. 24 are the pair of numbers that were immortalized at the Staples Center Monday night.

For the 10th time in team history, the Lakers honored a player with a jersey retirement ceremony, but of course, this is "The Mamba," and he had a pair of threads to add to the collection.

In an NBA first, the team decided to retire two jersey numbers worn by Bryant, the leading scorer in franchise history.

"I feel great," Bryant said after entering Staples Center while pushing a stroller containing Bianka Bella Bryant, his infant daughter. "I'm very proud I get to come here with my family. It feels good as a father to have my family come in and share this."

"He's everything in this city," said Lakers coach Luke Walton, Bryant's teammate on the last two title teams.

"To play his entire career for one organization, in modern sports, it really doesn't happen very often anymore," Walton added. "To go through two different championship runs, I think the Lakers are such a huge part of this city that people feel connected to him. ... They feel as if they were on that journey with him, with us, and I think that's why there's such a connection."

The ceremony took place at a special half-time show during a game against the Golden State Warriors. Bryant's jerseys were raised to the rafters.

The Lakers typically only retire the numbers of players enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Bryant isn't eligible until 2021, but the Lakers decided not to wait for that formality - and for Kobe, they doubled up the honor.

Bryant switched jersey numbers halfway through his career, neatly dividing the eras of his 20 years with the Lakers. The No. 8 Bryant won three NBA titles, and the No. 24 Bryant won two more before retiring in 2016 with a stunning 60-point performance in his farewell game against Utah.

Bryant even scored almost the same number of points in No. 8 (16,777) as he did in No. 24 (16,866).

When pressed to pick his favorite era, Bryant reluctantly did it.

"If 8 is playing 24 after he just ruptured his Achilles, then it's a problem for 24," Bryant said. "If 24 is playing 8 when he tore his shoulder, it's a problem for No. 8. so it depends. ... It's really, really tough for me. I think 24 was more challenging, and I tend to gravitate to things that are harder to do, and physically for me, it was really hard to get up night in and night out. It was really a grind."

The Lakers celebrated by closing down the street outside Staples Center and staging a street fair dubbed "Kobeland," complete with a Ferris wheel and many other games and attractions. Thousands of fans crowded into the downtown streets several hours before the game just to appreciate the atmosphere.

The architect behind Bryant's NBA titles wasn't in the building. Phil Jackson was unable to travel from his Montana home for the ceremony, but he did congratulate him on Twitter.

Other big names also took to social media to applaud the five-time NBA champion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.