At left, in a Jan. 25, 2013, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant goes up for a dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, in Los Angeles. At right, in a July 12, 1996, file photo, Kobe Bryant, 17, jokes with the media as he holds his Los Angeles Lakers jersey during a news conference in Inglewood, Calif. Two numbers went into the Staples Center rafters when the Los Angeles Lakers retired the jerseys of Kobe Bryant, the five-time NBA champion and top scorer in franchise history. The Lakers hung No. 8 and No. 24, representing both halves of Bryant’s storied 20-year career. (AP Photo/File)

At left, in a Jan. 25, 2013, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant goes up for a dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, in Los Angeles. At right, in a July 12, 1996, file photo, Kobe Bryant, 17, jokes with the media as he holds his Los Angeles Lakers jersey during a news conference in Inglewood, Calif. Two numbers went into the Staples Center rafters when the Los Angeles Lakers retired the jerseys of Kobe Bryant, the five-time NBA champion and top scorer in franchise history. The Lakers hung No. 8 and No. 24, representing both halves of Bryant’s storied 20-year career. (AP Photo/File)

Shooting for 2: Lakers retire Kobe Bryant’s 8 and 24 jerseys

L.A. hoop legend honoured in special ceremony

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although Kobe Bryant has been asked many times, he still isn’t sure who would win a mystical game of one-on-one between the young Kobe in his No. 8 Lakers jersey and his older self, who wore No. 24.

“I kind of go back and forth,” Bryant said with a sly grin. “But 8 has something that 24 will never, ever, ever have, and that’s the ability to grow hair.”

The Lakers couldn’t choose, either. So they honoured both eras of Kobe’s incredible career.

In an NBA first, the Lakers on Monday night retired both jersey numbers worn by Bryant, the leading scorer in franchise history.

Bryant attended the Lakers’ game against the Golden State Warriors for a halftime ceremony at Staples Center, which was packed with fans eager to bear witness once again to the beloved superstar scorer. Dozens of Bryant’s former teammates showed up, including Shaquille O’Neal and Derek Fisher, along with the Lakers’ usual cavalcade of celebrity fans.

“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.”

Bryant is the 10th player with a retired jersey for the 16-time NBA champion Lakers. His numbers were revealed high on the Staples Center wall, flanking the banner honouring Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn.

“It’s not about the jerseys that are hanging up there for me,” Bryant told the cheering crowd. “It’s about the jerseys that were hanging up there before. They inspired me to play the game at a high level.”

Magic Johnson and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss gave brief tributes to Bryant at halftime, with Magic boldly declaring, “We’re here to celebrate the greatest who ever wore the purple and gold.”

Buss cleverly explained the reasoning behind the Lakers’ decision to hang two jersey numbers for Bryant: “If you separated each of the accomplishments under those numbers, each of those players would qualify for the Hall of Fame.”

“I thank you for staying loyal to the purple and gold and remaining a Laker for life when it might have been easier for you to leave,” Buss added.

Along with Bryant’s 33,643 points, the five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star selection also leads the Lakers in games played (1,346), 3-pointers (1,827), steals (1,944) and free throws (8,378). Bryant is the third-leading scorer in league history.

He also was the first player to spend at least 20 seasons with one franchise, and he is widely beloved in Southern California, where he still lives with his family.

“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 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 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 honour.

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 favourite era of his own career, 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.”

___

More AP NBA: www.apnews.com/tags/NBAbasketball

Greg Beacham, The Associated Press

NBA

Just Posted

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits Nanoose Bay property

Experts say interesting look may simply be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

A Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation guardian took this photo of dozens of vehicles parked along a forest service road in the Kennedy watershed. (Submitted photo)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District looks at enforcement of illegal camping

ACRD currently does not have an existing bylaw service to tackle the issue

West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni received some good news about an expansion to its emergency department on Jan. 15, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. health ministry commits $6.25M to hospital expansion in Port Alberni

Plans for larger emergency department have been on hold since 2015

Smaller egg farmers find themselves in a David and Goliath situation when it comes to major producers and chain-grocery store shelf space. (Citizen file)
Vancouver Island egg producer cries foul over ‘Island’ label

Egg farmer frustrated with regulations allowing mainland-laid eggs to be labelled ‘Island’

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Johnathan Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight charges including sex-related offences against children and accessing, possessing and making or publishing child pornography. (Courtesy of Saanich Police)
Sentencing date moved for Saanich nanny guilty of child porn charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight sex offences against children

Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley Region, is reminding people to stay the course with COVID-19 measures. (File photo)
‘Stay the course’ with COVID measures, Island Health reminds

Limit social activity, wash hands, wear a mask, and isolate if you feel sick

Cowichan Tribes members line up at a drive-up clinic on Wednesday, Jan. 13 to receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the region. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

“Any one of us could do everything right and still catch the virus”: Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

A picture of the spill area on Oct. 30, 2020. (SCREENSHOT)
No environmental risk from oil spill at McLean Mill, says consultant

Terrawest Environmental concludes ‘end of spill’ report at national historic site

Most Read