“You Asked for my Hustle, I Gave You my Heart”…
Kobe Bryant is my favorite basketball player of all-time. I have never seen a player make more difficult shots, have such impeccable footwork and have the utmost desire to win. Ever. No one will ever take Kobe’s place in my heart when it comes to basketball. Even growing up in Chicago, where the “GOAT”, his “Airness”, Michael Jeffery Jordan played and won six championships for the Bulls and countless MVP’s, there was always something about the Black Mamba that drew my eye. The moves, the swagger, the hunger, the Mamba Mentality, the inspiration to go above and beyond his competition, Kobe Bryant did not only affect many on the court, but his legacy will live forever worldwide.
Like a wise man once said: “All good things must come to an end.” It is only fitting that after his retirement in 2016, the Los Angeles Lakers Legend will have both numbers 8 (worn from ’96-97 to ‘05-06) and 24(worn from ’06-’07 to ’15-’16) hung up in the Staples Center rafters. Bryant will be the 10th Laker ever to have his jersey retired and the first in NBA history to have two jerseys retired by the same franchise.
Peers of Bryant, coaches, executives, and of course fans all miss seeing the shooting guard from Lower Merion High School on the court. Many prefer 8, others love 24, but no matter the number, the Mamba came to play night in and night out.
The Tale of Two Kobe’s –
Eight was the young, ruthless, athletic freak, and fearless scorer, who had the attitude and swagger of a 10-year vet. Not fazed by anyone, but still had lots to learn about the game of basketball on and off the court. Kobe in 8 didn’t care who was coming for him, whether it was his own team or opponents, he wanted to bask in the glory of winning it all.
Enter 24, “Carpe Diem” the transition from scorer and superstar to an absolute leader, a man demanding greatness from his teammates and himself, not just during the games, but during practices, workouts, and film sessions. 24 was the veteran with a chip on his shoulder, a chip that would not be knocked off until the job was complete, and that was to win championships. Two-four was patient, and took the responsibility under his own wing.
Kobe was always a killer on both ends of the floor, always a winner at 8 and 24, but did it in different ways and perspectives. But one thing is for certain in both 8 and 24, when you needed a bucket, you know whose number to call, you know he’s going to get his shot off, and most of time you know it is going in. CLUTCH.
The memories are everlasting, the championships are forever, Kobe Bryant has had such memorable moments in both jerseys.
Before Bryant’s ride to Laker Immortality, let’s stroll down and reminisce the best plays and moments in both 8 and 24.
1998- All-Star Game Debut
NBA All-Star Game, Madison Square Garden, New York City. Bryant, 19 years old (Youngest All-Star Ever), starting for the Western Conference, going up against the likes of Michael Jordan, Penny Hardaway, Reggie Miller, and Grant Hill. Kobe made a name for himself with flashy moves and a few nasty dunks that even had MJ looking shocked.
2000- “Bryant…. TO SHAQ!”
Down 15 points in the fourth quarter in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, a blossoming Kobe Bryant and a dominate Shaquille O’Neal and a help from a few Brian Shaw three pointers clawed the Lakers back into the game. With less than a minute left, Lakers up 4, attempting to seal the game, the Lakers called on #8 and the Diesel for 1-2 knockout punch. Bryant crosses over Blazers forward, Scottie Pippen and throws the lob to Shaq for the slam. The Lakers went on to win the series in 7 and eventually the 2000 NBA title.
The Early 2000’s Lakers were as dominate as any team that’s ever graced the hardwood. The Dynamic duo of Kobe and Shaq took the league by storm. After sweeping the Jason Kidd led New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals, the New Lakers Dynasty was created. Kobe was on his way to pure stardom in the NBA.
2003- 12 3’s in one game
On January 7th, 2003 Kobe Bryant made a then NBA record 12 three pointers versus the Seattle Super Sonics. Bryant finished the game with 45 points, shooting an insanely efficient 12-18 from three point land.
The ’05-06 Season was one of, if not Kobe’s greatest season ever recorded. The year was filled with career highs, NBA records, and clutch moments. From outscoring the entire Dallas Mavericks team in 3 quarters (62-61), then weeks later dropping an unheard of and mythical 81 points against the Raptors, in which Kobe recalls “Staying in the Zone”, to his game-winner against the Phoenix Suns in the 2006 NBA playoffs. KB8’s 2005-2006 season was one for the books (Scored over 3,000 points…wow).
2007- Back to Back Scoring Titles/4-straight 50 Point Games
In Kobe’s debut of number 24, he took home the NBA’s scoring title for the second consecutive season. During the season the Mamba, turned it up a notch and recorded 50 or more points in 4 straight games. The first player to do so since Wilt, Bryant included two games of 65 and 60.
2008- First and Only NBA MVP Award
As great as Kobe was, he never got the recognition from his peers in the media. Year after year coming up short from his 2006 and 2007 seasons where Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki took home the hardware. Kobe was not denied in ’08. Leading the Lakers to the number one seed in the West and propelling his squad through the San Antonio Spurs, Bryant captured his long awaited MVP award. It was a shame that Kobe only received one, but like Bryant has mentioned countless times, championships are the ultimate goal.
2009- 61 at the Garden
On a cold night in February, Bryant warmed up the entire building of Madison Square Garden torching the Knicks for 61 points. Which, included Bryant’s infamous spin-pirouette move, that had everyone in the crowd on their feet and Wilson Chandler in a daze. Spike Lee wasn’t too thrilled, but still tipped his cap to the future Hall of Famer. One of many legendary performances by Bryant at the Garden, 61 sticks out the most.
2009- First Title without Shaq
Up until 2009 the criticism on Kobe Bryant was not that he couldn’t win, he just could not win without the help of former teammate Shaquille O’Neal. Kobe proved the haters wrong by defeating the Orlando Magic in 5 games, and winning his first NBA Finals MVP award as well. Not to mention the song dedicated to Kobe during the Finals by Lil Wayne titled “Kobe Bryant”.
2010- Repeat and Revenge against the Boston Celtics
In 2008, Kobe’s perfect season was derailed by the Big 3 of Boston. The Lakers lost to the C’s in 6 games and the green and white confetti poured through the TD Garden and all over Kobe Bryant as he exited to the locker room. Winning a title the following year was not enough for Bryant, he wanted revenge, he needed revenge, nothing was going to be sweeter to Kobe than to defeat the Boston Celtics as his Laker forefathers have done. In a classic duel between the two franchises, Bryant and the Lakers trailed 3-2, by blowing out the Celtics in game 6, Kobe and the Lakers went into game 7 down 13 and rallying back to capture the franchises 16th title and of course Kobe’s fifth. When asked about the meaning of number 5, Kobe’s response “I just got one more than Shaq.”
2012- Bringing home the Gold, Again
The Mamba joined Team USA for a second and final time in the Olympics defeating Spain and bringing back the Gold. During the Olympic tour Kobe claimed that the 2012 roster would defeat the original “Dream Team” of 1992.
“Vino” was the second persona of Kobe Bryant already known as the “Black Mamba”, Nicknamed Vino due to this elite level of play at the age of 34 years old. Kobe averaged 27.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and 6.0 apg. Unfortunately his season was ended two games before the playoffs due to his devastating Achilles injury.
2014- Passing Michael Jordan
Kobe has always idolized Michael Jordan, and it was obvious, his mannerisms, his similar play-style, and of course his winners mentality was nearly identical to Air Jordan. In 2014 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bryant passed his idol in career points, now placing Bryant at third all-time in scoring.
2016- 60. Mamba Out.
A roller-coaster of a career, many highs, many lows, but always a constant professional, Kobe Bryant’s final game of his final season as a Los Angeles Laker was one for the ages. On April 13th, 2016 The Mamba brought out the entire arsenal against the Utah Jazz. Bryant’s memorable career was capped with a 60-point, 50-shot attempt performance. The epitome of a scorer, the epitome of the term “Shooters Shoot”, Bryant had it going all night. Personally watching this game I nearly tear’d up (Okay I tear’d up but it was Kobe Bean Bryant’s last game ever, c’mon now!) After the performance of a lifetime, the 37-year old Bryant closed out a memorable speech in the middle of the Staples Center court the only way Kobe could… “What can I say? Mamba out!” *Drops Mic*
No matter if you remember Kobe in the 8 or the 24, just know Kobe did it for you. What do I mean by “it”? The hours spent in the gym, the jump shots, the practice, the preparation, the game-winners, the scoring, the championships, the ultimate sacrifices, he did it for you. Yes you, the fan, the crowds, the coaches, the players, the teammates, and the opponents, love him or hate him, you have to respect him.
Congrats Bean, You Deserve it.
Written By: Daniel Malakismail