After five championships and two full decades in the league, everyone knew that Kobe Bryant would go down as one of the very best players to ever play basketball. His tragic death just a few layers further cemented his legacy, and made everyone appreciate his greatness even more.
As fans look back at Kobe's time in the career, some have noted that he changed his jersey number midway through his career. He won his first three championships as number 8, and then changed his number to 24 during the 2006-2007 season. Here's what we know about why he made that change, and what he said about it.
Why did Kobe wear 8 and 24?
Kobe started his career wearing number 8, but eventually moved to number 24 for the rest of his career. At the time, Kobe explained the move, saying it signified "growth" for him as a player.
"Then 24 is a growth from [No. 8]," he said "Physical attributes aren't there the way they used to be, but the maturity level is greater. Marriage, kids. Start having a broader perspective being one of the older guys on the team now, as opposed to being the youngest. Things evolve."
It seems, then, that Kobe simply took on a new number to signify that he was no longer a young guy. He had to transition into the role of an established star and leader, and he wanted a new number for that part of his journey.
Why take on number 24, though? Kobe's long-time frenemy Kevin Garnett had his own theories about why Kobe had decided to switch to number 24.
"People don't even know [what] the 24 stands for," Kevin said. "People don't even understand that that was a sign to everybody that he was a step above 23 [Michael Jordan's jersey number], if y'all even got that."
""That's why he went 24, that was a shot at Mike, straight up, like, I'm better than you," he continued. "It really stood on it. And if you look at every goal or every record that Mike Jordan has had, Kobe chased it."
Kobe wanted to be seen as the greatest of all-time.
Kobe's drive to be seen as the greatest may have been part of the reason for his decision to put number 24 on, but he wasn't ultimately able to catch Michael Jordan in finals wins, finals MVPs, or league MVPs. Thanks to his longevity, though (he played for a total of 20 years), he did pass Michael in career points and in All-Star game appearances.
In most rankings of the best players to ever appear in the league, Kobe is at least third, falling behind both Michael Jordan and LeBron James, whose careers overlapped with his own. Even so, Kobe's overwhelming hunger to compete and prove himself was part of what made him an all-time great, and that extended even to his decision to wear the number 24 for the last decade of his career.