Kobe Bryant will be immortalized in Los Angeles Lakers lore—aside some of the greatest players in NBA history—in December, when the team retires his jersey numbers—both of them—at Staples Center.
Bryant will be honored during a Dec. 18 ceremony during halftime of the Lakers’ game against the Golden State Warriors. Bryant originally wore number 8 when he started his Lakers career in 1996, but switched to 24 after the 2005-06 season.
“Kobe’s jerseys are taking their rightful home next to the greatest Lakers of all time,” team CEO and controlling owner Jeanie Buss said. “There was never any doubt this day would come, the only question was when. Once again, Lakers fans will celebrate our hero, and once again, our foes will envy the legendary Kobe Bryant.”
Bryant, known during his playing days as the “Black Momba,” retired after the 2015-16 season, ending his career with 33,643 points, the third most in league history, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928). Bryant also took the third most shots all time, 26,200, again behind Abdul-Jabbar (28,307) and Malone (26,210).
Bryant at age 18 out of Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, officially became a Laker on July 1, 1996, when the team completed a previously agreed-to trade with the Charlotte Hornets, who had chosen him five days earlier with the 13th choice in the NBA draft as part of the trade agreement with the Lakers.
He played his entire career with the Lakers, helping the team win five NBA championships.
Bryant’s 20 seasons played with one organization is an NBA record. He is among five players to play at least 20 seasons in the league, along with Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis, who all played 21, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played 20.
Bryant was the league’s MVP in the 2007-2008 season, received All-NBA honors 15 times, including 11 first-team selections, and was chosen to play in the league’s All-Star Game 18 times.
Bryant will be the 10th player to have his jersey retired. The team has previously retired the jerseys of Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, James Worthy, Jerry West and Jamaal Wilkes.
“As a kid growing up in Italy, I always dreamed of my jersey hanging in the Lakers rafters, but I certainly never imagined two of them,” Bryant said. “The Lakers have bestowed a huge honor on me and I’m grateful for the fans’ enthusiasm around this game.”
Magic Johnson, the team’s president of basketball operations, said the honor is well deserved. “Kobe was one of the greatest Lakers and NBA players of all time, and he’s definitely on my Mount Rushmore,” Johnson said.