All pro athletes have to wear a jersey. While the fabric is just another piece of clothing to some players, most wear their number proudly. In fact, more often than not the number on their back signifies a special theme or shares a personal connection to their own life.
Here, I will explore that idea by looking at the two distinct numbers Kobe wore during his career. That will show why he chose each one, the reason for switching between them, and how some numbers become so important over time.
Making the Choice
Choosing a number is not as easy as it first might seem. Many athletes have a short amount of time to figure out what they want, and they have to be aware of what other players on their team already have. That’s why most NBA athletes go with what they wore in college.
More often than not, college athletes have numbers with a lot of personal meaning from their early life. Simply transitioning that same meaning into the NBA relieves them of a tough choice and makes it easy for them to pick a number without putting too much pressure on it.
Things get a bit trickier, however, when a player didn’t go to college.
Forging His Own Path
Kobe was extremely young when he came into the NBA. That’s important because, unlike a lot of college players, he didn’t have a ton of life experience to base his number on. Rather, he decided to go with something that had greatly affected his life up until that point.
He came into the NBA with the number 8. That now-iconic digit came about as a result of the Adidas ABCD Camp for high school stars. During that time the digits on his jersey were 143. As that’s not an option in the NBA, he went with their sum (which equaled 8).
He wanted to prove how strong he was on the court, and adopted that number as a way to truly make a name for himself. He stated that he wanted to plant his own flag and become extremely aggressive right out of the gate. It worked for him, but only for so long.
A Big Shift
After the Lakers traded Shaq in 2004, Kobe decided to wipe his old persona and work on a new personality. He wanted to be more mature, grow into a more disciplined person, and work on basketball from a more stable and balanced mindset. His old number didn’t work with that.
To signify the change, Kobe switched from the number that represented his time moving into the NBA to one that connected with his past. He chose 24 because it was his first number in high school back when he played at Lower Merion.
The decision was an evolution for the player, but it also brought everything full circle. He had pushed so hard to adopt a new NBA persona that he left some of himself behind. In 2004, on his own away from Shaq, he took his identity back. Going with 24 made that happen.
Kobe was a man of many talents who also happened to be a generational NBA player. His two numbers may not have had the most impactful decisions behind them, but they both became associated with him and his brand.
They just aren’t a part of his legacy, they’re a part of NBA history. Kobe is the only person to have two numbers retired by the same team, and that’s a title he will likely hold for a long, long time.