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’s announcement of his retirement a couple of days ago, the question that remains is whether the Lakers should retire Kobe’s number eight jersey or his number 24. He changed his number back in 2006, and there’s no definitive answer why. Theories range from him wanting 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
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
2x Finals MVP
1x Scoring title
7x All-NBA first team

No surprise that points per game average is higher with number 24 Kobe because that’s after Shaq’s departure from Los Angeles. What is shocking is that there are more win shares attached with number eight, which was when Shaq & Bryant had their reign of dominance, than when Kobe was the lone superstar as number 24. I know Kobe has significantly declined over the last three years, and the Lakers have been really bad, but if he was normal, would the production be at the same level?

Number eight Kobe was the youthful, electrifying athlete who attacked the rim relentlessly and scored the 81 points–second-most in NBA history–in a game in Toronto against the Raptors in January 2006. As he progressed and donned number 24, he started to mature more as a basketball player. The maturation process led to him adopting 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 proficient post game and a refined perimeter shot. His last two championships were captured in back-to-back style in 2009 & 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 & Shaq created an all-time best duo while wearing number eight. By no means is this decision unanimous, after all, number 24 experienced way more individual success than number eight. 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 he won’t be remembered by one number. He’ll be remembered 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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