The Lakers appear set to retire Kobe Bryant’s jersey on Dec. 18, less than two years after he last donned it in a dazzling and dramatic 60-point sendoff.
The only question will be which number hangs from the rafters: No. 8? No. 24?
TMZ reported early Tuesday morning that the Lakers had informed season-ticket holders to “hold on to tickets” for the Dec. 18 game against Golden State for a “special event.” The gossip site reported that would be a jersey retirement for Bryant, who spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, ascending to No. 3 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and winning five championships.
Bryant would become the 10th Lakers player to have his jersey retired, joining the likes of Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. The most recent player to have his number retired was Shaquille O’Neal, who won three titles with Bryant from 2000-02 and saw his No. 34 go up at Staples Center in 2013.
The question of which of Bryant’s jersey number will be retired has been the subject of much speculation since before he even stopped playing. Bryant wore No. 8 from 1996 as a rookie through the 2006 season, when he switched to No. 24.
Bryant won three titles in No. 8 and just two with No. 24, but after announcing his retirement in 2015 he said he did not have a preference which number was retired.
“He was able to do some amazing things with both – No. 8 and No. 24,” then-Lakers coach Byron Scott said at the time. “That will be a choice he has to make.”
While some have advocated for the Lakers retiring both numbers, it is widely held that if one number is officially retired, the other will be considered just as sacred and not be worn by any future players.