Yesterday was rather a special day in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as one its greatest players and biggest stars in the last two decades was feted with a jersey retirement.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers superstar and legend, had his jerseys (Yes, two jerseys!) hoisted to the rafters by the lone team he played for in a 20-year, Hall-of-Fame career in ceremonies held at the Staples Center.
It marked the first time in the NBA that a player’s jerseys were honored in such a way, which speaks volume of the legacy that Bryant left in The Association.
That the Lakers decided to retire Bryant’s number 8 and 24 jerseys is hardly surprising for I do not see how one would go about it any other way.
Bryant in “Crazy 8” and as “The Black Mamba” are in equal parts legends through and through.
The numbers and achievements say it all.
Sporting the number 8 from 1996 to 2005, Bryant scored 16,777 points, winning three titles and named an All-Star eight times.
In number 24 from 2006 to 2016, he scored 16,866 points, had two NBA titles, named league most valuable player (2008) and was an All-Star 10 times.
Along the way, through his tremendous work ethic to go along with his innate talent, he inspired a generation of ballers, many of whom are already stars in the NBA and have not hidden their admiration for the Laker legend.
Having had the chance to follow his career as a fan from his early days as a Laker off Lower Merion High School all the way to his final game in April in 2016 where he capped his NBA journey with 60 points, I would say it was a privilege and an honor to see his legend develop.
Though I admired Bryant in both number 8 and 24, I would say I liked the latter version more.
While in his early years Bryant impressed with his do-it-all and jaw-dropping ways on the court, under the Black Mamba he really solidified his standing as one of the best in the NBA, which I really digged.
Bryant was the cerebral one in number 24 who dominated games not so much on his physical abilities but more on mental aspects, which was a gem to watch.
Maybe me being an older fan around that time had something to do with it but there was no denying he showed tremendous evolution as a player as the Black Mamba which summed up what he was as a player and, ditto, a legend.
Having his jerseys retired, Bryant is very deserving of the honor. Thanks for all the great moments in league history, Kobe. One of the best ever, bar none.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.