Last night, the Lakers retired TWO numbers for Kobe Bryant, Nos. 8 & 24. Gimmick? No, I don’t think so.
He wore each number for roughly half his career, so the natural question is, which Kobe is better.
There are arguments on both sides, but for my money it’s #24. Early Kobe had some statistical advantages, but #24 Kobe was a big game machine who could summon at will a dagger to the heart in the form of a 4th quarter turnaround fade-away 3 ball with a hand in his face. He won two titles without Shaq, and proved himself as an all-time great.
But the real question at HTTA is, are both Kobe’s the best player in NBA history, to wear each number?
To settle this, we need to consider Kobe as two, completely separate players, nothing before or after counts.
WS- WinShares, PER- Player Efficiency Rating, ( ), all time rank
Number 8 is a slam dunk, best ever. Walt Bellamy wore #8, but he’s no Kobe. Moses Malone and the Ice Man dabbled in it for about a season each, but the only other notable pro was Antoine Walker. As I said, slam dunk.
Number 24 is a little trickier. I’ve done some digging and the consensus Number 1, Number 24 (if not Kobe) is Rick Barry. Barry wore number 24 for the vast majority of his NBA Career- I’m excluding his time in the ABA. The years/games played provide a somewhat similar sample, and we’re already chopping off half of Kobe’s career.
Barry vs Kobe_24
- 6x All-NBA (1st Team- 5, 2nd– 1)
- NBA Champion
- Finals MVP
- NBA Scoring Champ
- ASG MVP
- 794 Games, 23.2- 6.5- 5.1, 45.1 EFG%, 20.2 PER, 93.4 WS
- 7x All-NBA 1st Team
- 2x NBA Champion
- 2x Finals MVP
- NBA Scoring Champ
- NBA MVP
- 2x ASG MVP
I think this one is close, but I give the nod to Kobe. Both are clear HOF’ers. Kobe’s resume is loaded; he’s also got the extra title and Finals MVP. Also, Barry played from ’66-80. This era is described as “underappreciated” quite often, but doesn’t come close to Kobe’s era.
I hate him on so many levels, but #factsisfacts, Kobe is an all-time great, just in, or just outside, my all time top 10 NBA Players. And he is certainly the only player ever to wear two different numbers, and stand alone as the best ever in each.