Frankly, I’m getting a little sick of the Kobe Bryant retirement tour. It’s only January, so this is a problem.
Some of it’s been cool — Kobe’s last game in Philly (his hometown) was emotional, plus he played pretty well. His last trip to Boston was enjoyable to witness the final chapter of his love/hate relationship with the fans in a building where he has so much meaningful history.
Obviously, The Mamba’s final game in Los Angeles will be groundbreaking. But we’ll get there in April.
For now, the Kobe tour is getting a bit “Jeter-ish” in my mind. It’s too much to take on a nightly basis. In a way it almost makes me appreciate a legend less when people try to honor him every single night.
Kobe deserves appreciation in the grand scheme of things when it comes to NBA history, though. His number will no doubt hang in the rafters of the Staples Center shortly after he hangs them up in just a few months.
But we’re getting close to the time where it has to be determined … which number will it be?
“Obviously it could be 8, 24 or it could be both,” Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak told the LA Times this week.
Retired numbers are a pretty sacred accomplishment. Mind you I grew up a Celtics fan and believe they probably have too many numbers hanging atop the Gahden. (But I guess when you win 11 championships in 13 years and 17 overall you’re going to have a lot of worthy contributors. And yes, there’s still plenty of room for 34 and 5 up there if you ask me).
Anyway, truth be told, Kobe does deserve to have both of his numbers retired. If for no other reason, simple because if you take his careers as No. 8 and No. 24 and make them two players, they both still easily qualify.
No. 8 came into the league as one of the most exciting young players we’ve ever seen. He took some time to adjust, but fans knew what they had in this high flyer. He was voted an All-Star starter back in 1998 while he was still coming off the bench for the Lakers, and he remains the only 19-year old All-Star in NBA history.
He went on to be the second best player on three championship teams (the last three-peat to date), but also (forgettably) the best player on another team that came up short in the 2004 NBA Finals against the Pistons.
No. 8’s career wound down in 2006, when he averaged an absurd 35.4 points per game. That included an unforgettable 81-point performance which very well could stand forever as the second most points by an individual in an NBA game.
No. 24 was born in the 2006-07 season. Already a lethal scorer, No. 24 wanted to prove himself as the lead dog, and did exactly that. He dropped a championship to Boston in 2008 as not only the best player on his team, but the MVP of the league.
After that he was driven to win a pair of titles back-to-back as the clear-cut best player, including revenge on the Celtics playing with a broken finger. His efforts were rewarded with two NBA Finals MVP trophies in 2009 and 2010.
No. 24 remained an elite player until 2013. Since then a barrage of injuries have sidelined him and taken away from his greatness.
Both of those careers are elite, and it’s not even debatable.
So, yeah. I’ve had enough of every city bowing down to Kobe on each stop of his retirement tour. Honestly, the best part has been listening to just how honest Bryant has been with the media now that his guard is finally down. We’re getting a real look at the man behind The Mamba mask.
But when it comes to retiring numbers, you can try and tell yourself we don’t need to retire two numbers for Kobe Bryant. You’d be wrong, though.
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