As a numbers game, will Kobe Bryant's retirement be twice as nice?
When Kobe Bryant decides that his playing days are behind him, there will be much adulation thrust upon the Lakers guard that I consider the greatest offensive player to roam the perimeter of a basketball court. Ever. No disrepect to Michael Jordan, who was a high flier when he came into the league and developed one of the greatest mid-range games ever witnessed as the seasons took a toll upon his legs. And it's most likely that Jordan is the greatest player of all time, in terms of athleticism and all-around game. I differentiate the post players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain or a power forward like Karl Malone because they play a different all-court game. Not always one of style and grace but by necessity often one of power and fury, muscle and might.
Bryant is the most complete swing player to take the NBA spotlight. No need for debate, folks, because if you put the right talent around him (better spot-up shooters, in particular) he could probably average nearly a triple-double by becoming a facilitator who scored only when necessary. If he retired today he'd be a slam dunk Hall of Famer. You don't collect five championship rings by coincidence (unless you're Robert Horry who somehow attained seven by being in the right places at the right times), even if some considered Bryant the sidekick to Shaquille O'Neal for three of those titles.
Which brings us to this question that was offered up in the comments section by LEWSTRS a couple of days ago: When it's time to retire Kobe's jersey and hang a replica in the rafters, will he become the first player in NBA history to have two numbers taken off the roster list and displayed among the greats of his franchise? Will Nos. 8 and 24 hang overhead at Staples Center? One day we will find out, but my guess is that he will have to choose and I'll bet it will be No. 24 because the other number is associated with the championships won alongside the Big Nickname. The franchise could retire both numbers, though.
As you can see from the link above, several players -- Kareem, Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Earl Monroe, Pete Maravich, Nate Thurmond, Bob Lanier, Lenny Wilkens, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley and Jordan by my count, though I might have missed one -- have had numbers retired by at least two franchises. I'm not even sure whether any Hall of Fame or franchise-type players switched numbers when playing a long time for one team.
As for Bryant, it's probably going to be a few years, maybe several, before we have the final answer.
-- Dan Loumena
Photo credits: Los Angeles Times