Kobe Bryant's playing days with the Los Angeles Lakers saw him immortalizing the jersey numbers 8 and 24. What the Black Mamba wore represented stages in his basketball career and they marked the moments of evolution from high school to two decades of starring for Purple & Gold.
Bryant started as a professional with No. 8 because No. 24 was already taken and in the superstar's interview with ESPN, he revealed that the number reminded him of how things started. The NBA legend skipped college to join a league that he knew only expected the best from him.
He had to make the statement that not only he deserved a spot in the NBA but he would be among the best. The No. 8 reminded Bryant of the time he was planting the flag.
"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," CBS Sports reported the Lakers superstar as saying.
When No. 24 became available, Bryant was already a big name and his popularity extended outside of the United States. With No. 8, the Black Mamba earned three NBA rings but he did not hesitate to get a new jersey for personal reasons. He knew then that things were evolving and he decided to swim with the process, to do a reboot.
As if starting from scratch, Bryant said No. 24 was for growth and maturity, which was only fitting as the star was then starting a family and taking on more pressing roles. He became the acknowledged leader of the Lakers and playing that role won for him two more NBA titles.
On a personal level, the Lakers star also elected to wear the more mature persona of a husband and a father. Bryant said his perspective became broader, which prepared him for more serious responsibilities in playing the role of a basketball star and that of a family man.
Switching to 24 reminded Bryant of his roots and it convinced him to continue with the process of evolving, which paid off for the star. As Fadeaway World noted, No. 8 represented a Bryant era when the player's stock was rising. It was the period that saw Bryant transforming into an NBA superstar.
The significance of Bryant's two jersey numbers was not lost on the Lakers. In 2017, the franchise honored the superstar by retiring both numbers, which was a first for the NBA. The act meant that Bryant's achievements were so great that no player will ever come close.
It might be that a Lakers member will eclipse what had the Black Mamba had done but the club, but for the organization, no one gets to wear No. 8 and No. 24 again.