Kobe Bryant‘s No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys forever hung at the Staples Center following his retirement in 2016, but on Sunday, January 26, they took on a new, heavier meaning. The former Los Angeles Lakers star, as well as his daughter Gianna, 13, and seven other victims were killed in a private helicopter crash. Now, many are wondering why the 41-year-old had two different numbers.
According to ESPN, he initially chose eight based on his Adidas ABCD Camp number, 143. It adds up to eight and was the number he wore in Italy between the ages of 6 and 13 while his father, Joe Bryant, played for several teams in the country. “When I first came in at 8, is really trying to ‘plant your flag’ sort of thing,” he said. “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, Pennsylvania. However, for the 2006-07 season, until he called it quits, the father of four went back to the number he wore in his earlier basketball years.
” … Then 24 is a growth from that. Physical attributes aren’t there the way they used to be, but the maturity level is greater,” he said. “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 met his wife, Vanessa Bryant, in 1999 and wed two years later on April 18, 2001. Since then, the couple welcomed daughters Natalia Diamante, 17, Gianna Maria-Onore, 13, Bianka Bella, 3, and Capri Kobe, 7 months.
Following his passing, celebrities shared tributes on social media. Late rapper Nipsey Hussle‘s girlfriend, Lauren London, wrote on Instagram, “Heart is heavy. There are no words, just real conversations with God. Sending my heart to Vanessa and the family.”
Meanwhile, it took some time before his former teammate LeBron James could muster up the courage to post about his friend. “I’m not ready, but here I go. Man, I [sic] sitting here trying to write something for this post, but every time I try, I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had!” he wrote on Monday, January 27, before adding that he talked to him the day he passed away. “I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated, my brother!! I love you, big bro.”
Bryant is the only player in league history to have two jersey numbers retired with the same team. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all victims and their families during this tragic time.
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