PHILADELPHIA — Kobe Bryant suddenly has a good problem to have. It’s far less serious than the Lakers’ persistent losing, or Bryant’s endless shooting inaccuracy.
Does Bryant have a preference on the Lakers retiring his No. 8 or No. 24 jersey?
“Not really,” Bryant laughed.
Well, it could happen soon.
The Lakers have had conversations in the past on which of Bryant’s jersey numbers they will retire, and they plan to have more discussions on that issue, according to a team source.
When the Lakers would retire Bryant’s jersey also remains undetermined. But that could happen as early as next season instead of waiting for the requisite five-year grace period before Bryant would enter the Hall as a first-ballot inductee, the team source added.
The Lakers retired jerseys for Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, James Worthy and Jamaal Wilkes at varying times after they had already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. But the Lakers do not hold that honor as a requirement before retiring a jersey. For example, the Lakers retired Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 34 jersey on April, 2, 2013, though he does not become eligible for a Hall of Fame induction until 2017.
As for Bryant, former Lakers Magic Johnson told reporters at a Dodgers press conference that he’s “going to have the next statue and the next jersey up.”
The reasons are obvious. Bryant won five NBA championships, two Finals MVP’s and one regular-season MVP’s. He climbed up to third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant made 17 NBA All-Star appearances.
“He was able to do some amazing things with both – No. 8 and No. 24,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “That will be a choice he has to make.”
Although Bryant did not sound too concerned about his choice, he admitted feeling more comfortable with his role as No. 24 despite winning three of his five NBA titles wearing No. 8.
“The first phase of my career was much harder. I had to learn something I naturally wasn’t,” said Bryant, who switched numbers before the 2006-07 season. “It took a lot of studying and figuring out how to organize a team.”