Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant during the second half of an NBA basketball game with the Cleveland Cavaliers in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Why did Kobe Bryant wear two jersey numbers?

When Kobe Bryant joined the Los Angeles Lakers out of high school in 1996 he opted to wear No. 8.

The two numbers he wore at Lower Merion (Pa.) High School were unavailable. Small forward George McCloud wore No. 24 and No. 33, worn by Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, hanged from the rafters. 

For nine seasons Bryant wore No. 8. He scored 16,866 points in 707 games. He won three NBA titles, won a scoring title and was an eight-time All-Star selection. He also famously scored 81 points in one game against the Raptors in that jersey.

Then, in 2006, he switched numbers to No. 24 and would wear it in 639 games, scoring 16,777 points. He earned two more NBA titles, two Finals MVP awards, a scoring title and an MVP award. Bryant made 10 more All-Star games as No. 24 and moved to third all-time in league scoring. 

After his retirement, Bryant explained to ESPN that switching numbers was part of his growth:

“Then 24 is a growth from that. Physical attributes aren’t there the way they used to be, but the maturity level is greater. 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. It’s not to say one is better than the other or one’s a better way to be. It’s just growth.”

In 2017, the Lakers retired both jersey numbers.

Multiple players have multiple jersey numbers retired by different teams. Bryant is the only one to have two numbers retired by the same team. 

The Hawks’ Trae Young honored Bryant, who died Sunday along with eight others in a helicopter crash, by wearing the No. 8 and with an 8-second violation to start the game. The Wizards followed with a 24-second violation, honoring both of Bryant’s numbers.

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