Kobe Bryant. A man who pretty much needs no introduction.
81 points, jersey number 24, and perhaps the “second coming of Michael Jordan” (a title he was given for years). Kobe was so big that even before his death that you could make an argument saying that he was on the verge of usurping the actual reptile for being crowned as the Black Mamba (if we’re talking social media/Google searches that is… maybe lol).
Point being, we all admired Kobe in some shape, form or fashion throughout his incredible career, whether you rooted for him or the opposing team. But, being that this is about Kobe Bryant, regardless of the result and no matter what his stats looked like, Kobe would give us a show night in and night out. So much so that any Kobe fan would agree that he gave us the same result, almost every time, for 20 years in that purple in gold. It didn’t matter if he was wearing 8 or 24, it made no difference to most of us who witnessed him during his legendary run.
But, based off of my experience with Kobe, growing up as a 90’s baby and having the luxury of witnessing him literally my entire life, I realize there’s a few differences between the player wearing the two jerseys (aside from them obviously being two different numbers).
So, let’s dive deep into the style of play AND the mind of a different animal and the same beast (that may have went over your heads).
Most would say it’s a virtue right? This is indeed something I believe No. 24 had better control over than No. 8 did. Perhaps you could say they both at some point could get impatient, but for different reasons based on experience. No. 24 learned to let his game come to him so that he’d find his rhythm throughout the duration of the game. But ,like I said earlier, there were still times when he was impatient (most of the time due to the team not playing the way they should). So, as a result, No. 24 might try and shoot his team back into the game because he couldn’t stand to watch his team get blasted. There were a lot of times of course when that “hero ball” plan would fail. There’s no doubt in my mind, however, that NO. 24 had good intentions in doing so (by having 15 points in the 4th quarter and not passing the ball to his teammates as much).
Also, No. 24 played with a sense that no one was better than him, so why rush to prove a point when he’d wait to catch you two weeks later on a road trip away game just to embarrass you in front of everyone? Sometimes depending on the matchup, or better yet the level of player No. 24, he probably wouldn’t even acknowledge your presence, even if you were talking trash. Because it wouldn’t be worth dismantling the 12th man on the team no one knows, as much as it is an emerging superstar talent such as LeBron who the media may be trying to promote as the player that could possibly trump him. In other words, No. 24 didn’t waste time eating crumbs up off the floor. Maybe it was due to him having 4 to 5 around that time period already locked away?
No.8 on the other hand was a little more wild with how he approached the game back then– a little more sense of urgency than No.24. Perhaps it was because for 7 to 9 years of his career, he felt he was being overshadowed. Not just by the 7 foot, big Black force of nature with a teenage like personality known as “the great Shaquille O’Neal”, but by his other counterparts as well. Specifically, the other perimeter players that were rising to fame around that same time period (Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, etc.). He also had to play second in command to one of the greatest Centers of all time ,who scored most of the team’s points.
Also, having to be critiqued by fans who may have thought the other players at his position were better than him, one could make the argument that this is what fueled No. 8 to play with that type of unneeded aggression he did, despite the fact that he was apart of a franchise that won three titles in a row during his ten year run. So, I say all of that to say this, despite what his reason for breaking plays or having games were, No. 8 felt he needed to score just as many points as the Starting Center who was his teammate. You can always go back and watch how anxious to try and out do his opponents No. 8 was, with the same type of aggression.
In the documentary, The Last Dance, Micahel Jordan said, “The young fella is gonna go out there and try and take the game… he won’t let the game come to him.” This quote was pulled from a recording in a locker room where Jordan was talking to the other players right before the 1998 all-star game, alongside the next 8 of Kobe’s career where he just so happened to be wearing The No. 8.
During Kobe’s career we’ve witnessed him go through some pretty rough patches, such as not being able to get along with teammates at times, the sexual assault allegations in Colorado, the 2013 injury that kept him sidelined for the following season, the claims of him being snubbed for the 2006 MVP by point guard Steve Nash, and the feuds between him and his former coach Phil Jackson. But, the the one thing that stood out pertaining to this particular topic is the fact that Kobe was a hot head. Yeah, I said it! Kobe was too tough for his own good as No. 8 at times. So much so that he’d cost his team games because of it. Remember the fight he had with former Knicks guard Chris Childs? I bet you do! Now, of course when you look back on the incident you could argue that Kobe didn’t do anything wrong, he was defending himself. That is right. But, if you look closer, Chris Childs didn’t throw a single punch until he saw Kobe raise his elbow by Chris’s face as if he were going to get off on Chris first, THEN, Chris punched Kobe twice. This incident got both of them ejected.
Also, there was another altercation in 2002 when Kobe tried to attack Reggie Millerduring a regular season game at home. All Reggie did was talk trash as usual, but what seems to prove my point even more about No. 8 is that when Kobe tried to attack Reggie Miller, it was AFTER the game was already over and the Lakers has won with a score of 96 to 84. Not only that, but Kobe lit up Reggie so bad Kobe had almost 27 points that night While Reggie had only 2 points. So, after playing almost 40 minutes that night, what does Kobe do? Earn himself a two game suspension. My point is that No. 8 had a real bad temper back in the day, and this may have also been the genesis that helped worsen his already rocky and complex relationship with Shaquille and his coach Phil Jackson at the time.
Now let’s get to No. 24 shall we?! Kobe at this point in his career had his shit together in so many ways, man! But, mentally he was by far more well kept than the younger version of himself. One incident I recall as a child coming up was the 2009 Western Conference Semi Finals against the Lakers and The Rockets. Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace of the Houston Rockets at the time tried to provoke Kobe with all that he had to give. He would get in No. 24’s face, yelling and cussing at him, purposely shoving him, and No. 24 didn’t bite the dust not once. It was most certainly something that went over my head as a kid considering the fact that not only did I see what No. 8 was capable of doing, but also because as a former fan of the NBA, it’s in almost in everyone’s nature to want to see some sense of barbarism on the floor in a game.
But, this No. 24 guy wouldn’t let it bother him not once because he was calm and most certainly focused. As a matter of fact, I don’t think he said too much of anything to Ron that whole series and the Rockets took the Lakers to 7 games that year. Another incident from that same year was when former Small Forward, now podcaster of the show “All The Smoke”, Matt Barnes, treid to intimidate Kobe by faking like he was going to throw the ball in his face, and 24 wouldn’t budge at all. He just stood there staring dead at him. All of this to show that he was no longer going to let people take him out of games mentally, and this is yet another point that made him different from No. 8, if not the other superstars fans claim he was better than.
Oh boy! and lots of it! Obviously when most men are younger they tend to have a lot more hair than in their later years. This is something No. 8 had over No. 24.
If it’s one thing I’d count on No. 8 to do for me is get to that bucket much more faster than No. 24 could, man! That dude was like lightning sometimes on the court. I remember in the early 2000s when the Lakers played the Kings, and No. 8 crossed Jason Williams aka White Chocolate, and guarded Tony Delk so fast that they both ran into each other and bumped into each other. Not only that, but it had happened so damn fast that even Kobe didn’t notice what he had just done.
No. 24 was a bit slower on the hardwood with how he moved. His first step slowed up a bit so he took a lot of pump fakes to draw fouls or he’d put all of his energy into pull up jumpers from mid range just he can get closer to the basket. Also he’d play baseline and post up his defender and settle for turn around fade always just so he’d retain his stamina as well so I say that to say again his game slowed up.
Ah, yes! Arguably the best in the game next to Hakeem The Dream right? If it’s one thing No. 24 had down pat better than 8 it would be that god given footwork. That dude 24 had so many techniques just off his foot work that he could literally be in one spot (on his pivot foot) and break you down without having to move from where he was already standing! It blew my mind even more seeing how aggressive players naturally get on defense when they see players pick up their dribbles in the midst of a drive to the basket, and 9 times out of 10 they’d normally pass the ball back out or they’d turn it over. But, Kobe? Specifically No. 24– that barely happened. What’s even more impressive is that he was still cold with it after he had gotten older, too. Reason being, aside from him wanting to expand his offensive game to become more unpredictable, Kobe Bryant knew he was slowing down athletically and he was more injury pron,e so he figured out a way to play closer to the post so not only could he try out new moves ,but he could also eliminate as much risk of injury to his body as possible since he was a perimeter player that has to move around the court. Talk about killing two birds with one stone, right? So, If you’re a young guy or gal out there wanting to improve your offensive game, learn how to play in one spot and learn how to not have to dribble the ball. Learn to rely on your legsand to always do the work like 24 did.
Ultimately, no matter what number he wore, or what phase he was in when wearing those numbers, the world still admires him, beyond his contributions to the game. Thank you, Kobe.