Wednesday April 13, 2016; Kobe Bryant #24 of the Lakers before and after the Lakers game. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz by the final score of 101-96 in Lakers Kobe Bryant's last NBA game at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Icon Sportswire)
Wednesday April 13, 2016; Kobe Bryant #24 of the Lakers before and after the Lakers game. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz by the final score of 101-96 in Lakers Kobe Bryant's last NBA game at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Icon Sportswire)

The Numbers Behind Kobe’s Numbers

With Kobe Bryant’s announcement of his retirement a couple of days ago, the question that remains is whether the Lakers should retire Bryant’s number eight jersey or his 24. Back in 2006, Kobe made the switch from one to the other, and there’s no definitive answer why. Fans have concocted theories ranging from him aiming to reinvent himself after his sexual assault case, all the way to him wanting to one-up Michael Jordan.

Regardless of what number the Lakers choose to retire, the numbers he put up in both jerseys are astounding and a little bit shocking:

Jersey #No. 8 No. 24
Seasons10 (1997-2006)10 (2007-2016)
Championships 3 2
PTS/game23.926.9
REB/game5.15.5
AST/game4.55.1
Win Shares97.075.1
Accolades 8 All-Star games, 1 MVP
1x scoring title
81 point game
4x All-NBA first team
9 All-Star games, 3 MVP
1x NBA MVP
2x Finals MVP
1x Scoring title
7x All-NBA first team

It’s no surprise that Bryant’s scoring average is higher while he donned his second jersey because that’s after Shaquille O’Neals’ departure from Los Angeles. What’s shocking is that there are more win shares attached with number eight, which was when Shaq and Bryant had their reign of dominance, than when Kobe was the lone superstar. I know Kobe has significantly declined over the last three years, and the Lakers have been awful, but if he was normal, would the production be at the same level?

The first iteration of Kobe was the youthful, electrifying athlete who attacked the rim relentlessly; his most memorable moment was scoring 81 points — second-most in NBA history — in a game in Toronto against the Raptors in January 2006.

As his career progressed, he started to mature more as a basketball player. That process led to him adopt the nickname “Vino” during the 2012-13 season because his play was aging like a fine wine. Vino Kobe ditched the afro and began developing a more all-around game, establishing a presence in the post and a refined perimeter shot. His last two championships were captured in back-to-back style in 2009 and 2010 with Kobe being the undoubted superstar of the team.

More games were played with number eight on the jersey than 24, mostly due to injuries. Kobe scored more points, collected more rings and had more win shares wearing number eight than he did 24. He was half of the most dominant duo ever while wearing number eight. By no means is this decision unanimous; after all, number 24 had way more individual success. Along with what is listed in the table, Bryant won two Olympic gold medals while wearing 24, even though he didn’t wear it during the games.

Bryant is the leader in various statistics for the Lakers and is, hands down, the best scorer in franchise history (sorry Kareem). Over 32,000 career points sit him at number three on the all-time list, behind Karl Malone & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and above Michael Jordan, who he passed last season.

His career is so legendary, and he’s lucky enough that fans won’t remember him by one number. Instead, he’ll be recognized as a five-time world champion, an on-court assassin, a person who has unconditional love for the game and the Michael Jordan to a whole generation.

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference

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