I hadn't really thought of it until I saw the question posed, "Which number should the Lakers retire for Kobe, 8 or 24?"
I'm not sure if this issue has ever come up, where a player changed numbers without switching teams. The only other case I can think of this happening with a player who would get their number retired is Jordan, with 23 and 45, but in that case, there is simply no question.
My reflex is to answer, the number 8. It was the first number I saw Kobe play with, and being a big sucker for nostalgia, it seemed right. I remember meeting Kobe outside of a mall right before his rookie season, becoming an instant fan. I owned a (much to large for my height, but it was 2000) number 8 authentic jersey. It's the number that reminds me of watching the Lakers with my dad. It'll always be Kobe's number to me.
But obviouly not everyone will agree, so I tried to look at it without my own history affecting my choice.
If we try to look at Kobe's PPG each season it's a bit hard to tell where he was more productive, it's also not very telling of anything really
Obviously I will need to dig a bit deeper.
In this brief analysis I awarded 1 point for each of the following categories in which Kobe achieved during a season:
- All Star Appearance
- All Star MVP
- Season MVP
- Finals MVP
- First Team All NBA
- First Team Defense
- Season Scoring Champ
- Other (ie. slam dunk champ)
Here is the crude chart I used to add these up
- Kobe #8 (96-05) - 18 points
- Kobe #24 (06-15) - 32 pints
It's pretty easy to see which number he was more productive in, number 24.
While he won more championships in number 8, he had many more personal achievements in 24. He won his only season and finals MVPs while wearing 24, as well as being the scoring Champ twice. He also had a higher PPG while wearing 24.
If you don't like this approach (I admit it's not very scientific), another angle to approach this is, while Kobe wore #8 he largely shared the spotlight, and team, with fellow Laker legned, Shaq. What Kobe could achieve without Shaq was always in question, as was his maturity. He was embrolied in drama on and off the court, although never distracting from his ability to produce.
But when Kobe wore #24, the Laker's were his. He took them from nothing to Champions. He emerged as a legend while wearing 24. From hitting countless clutch shots, to scoring an amazing 81 points in a single game, Kobe became the Black Mamba in 24.
What Should They Do?
I kind of hope they can figure out a way to reitre both numbers, not really sure how this could be done, maybe a holographic image projected on a blank jersey that changes throughout the game, rotating between 8 and 24.
In reality, this is a small issue. Older fans will might remember Kobe as number 8 and if that has any kind of emotional attachement, then that will always be his number. Those not hung up on nostalgia will recognize 24 as his number.
When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter. Kobe is the greatest Laker of all time, regardless of the numbers. Let's just ask him which he'd rather have.