Why Kobe Bryant changed jersey numbers and what No. 8 and No. 24 meant to the NBA legend

The No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys forever hung at the Staples Center in Los Angeles took on a new meaning Sunday when the basketball world lost Los Angeles Lakers great and future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant at the age of 41. Bryant's legacy started on the court and reached far beyond it both during his time in the league and during retirement, and the jerseys illuminated at "The House that Kobe Built" are a symbol of that. 

Bryant is the only player in league history to have two jersey numbers retired with the same team. The star changing numbers, going from No. 8 to No. 24, midway through his career. 

The Laker began his career, after deciding to forgo college and take on the challenge of playing in the NBA, wearing the No. 8 jersey. According to ESPN, he chose the number based on his Adidas camp number, 143. It adds up to eight, and was the number he wore in Italy when he was younger.

Ahead of the Lakers retiring both jersey numbers, Bryant broke down how his persona and attitude were different with the two.

He said:

"When I first came in at 8, is really trying to 'plant your flag' sort of thing. I got to prove that I belong here in this league. I've got to prove that I'm one of the best in this league. You're going after them. It's nonstop energy and aggressiveness and stuff."

When Bryant joined the Lakers in 1996, George McCloud was wearing No. 24, which was Kobe's first high school number at Lower Merion in Ardmore, Penn. His other high school number, 33, was already retired by the Lakers to honor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

For the 2006-07 season and beyond, until his retirement in 2016, the NBA icon went back to the number he wore in his earlier basketball years: No. 24. 

Bryant said ahead of retirement:

"... Then 24 is a growth from that. 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."

Bryant often reflected on his early basketball days. In his Oscar winning short film "Dear Basketball," Kobe reflected on how no matter what, he would always be that kid who fell in love with a game. He said No. 24 meant a lot to him, as it was part of his basketball origin story that got him to the level of skill and success he had with the Lakers. So while No. 24 was a moment to evolve for Kobe, it was also a way to go back to his basketball roots.

Bryant won three NBA championship titles as No. 8 and his final two wearing No. 24. He appeared in eight All-Star games with his first number and ten after the jersey swap. He won a scoring title in each number and scored 16,777 points repping No. 8 and 16,866 points wearing No. 24. 

When it came time to honor Bryant in the proper way, the Lakers decided no player in LA should ever wear either number again.

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