The only debate pertaining to the greatness of Kobe Bryant is which jersey number he was better in. He wore No. 8 for the first 10 seasons of his career before switching to No. 24 in 2006, and each have produced countless episodes of greatness.
Five championships, four scoring titles, an MVP, and an 81-point game will earn you a spot in the rafters with any franchise. But which number should the Lakers retire? The case can be made for No. 8. The case can be made for No. 24. The case can be made for both. Today, we settle the debate.
Regular Season Stats
- No. 8: 707 games, 35.7 MPG, 8.3-18.4 FGA, 23.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.6 BPG
- No. 24: 638 games, 36.6 MPG, 9.1-20.6 FG, 26.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Kobe played more games in the No. 8 jersey, 707 to 638. But his averages were much higher in the No. 24 jersey.
He averaged 26.2 points per game after the jersey change compared to 23.7 before. He has scored roughly the same amount of points in each jersey, 16,866 before to 16,717 after.
Kobe led the league in field goal attempts six times in his career—five came in the No. 24 jersey. And despite the increased shot volume as No. 24, his field goal percentage hardly went down—from .451 to .443. This gives No. 24 a slight edge in the stats department.
No. 24 leads 1-0.
- No. 8: Nine appearances (97-04, 06): 126 games, 22.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG
- No. 24: Six appearances (07-12): 94 games, 29.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.6 BPG
No. 8 Kobe played in 126 playoff games, averaging 22.9 points per game en route to three titles alongside Shaquille O’Neal. Those teams won a whopping 20 playoff series—including 13 straight from 2000-2003.
The latter Kobe played in just 94 playoff games, but his averages were much higher in the post-Shaq years. No. 24 averaged 29.3 points per game and won two NBA titles. These teams won 13 playoff series—imagine how many more they would have won if the Chris Paul trade had gone through? (Sorry, Lakers fans.)
The logical choice would be quality over quantity for playoff prowess, because Shaq was the star of the early teams. Kobe carried the team for the first time in No. 24.
No. 24 leads 2-0.
- No. 8: 23.2 PER, 97.0 win shares, 40.1 Value Over Replacement Players
- No. 24: 22.6 PER, 75.5 win shares, 31.8 Value Over Replacement Players
No. 8 Kobe has a sizeable advantage in Player Efficiency Rating (23.2 to 22.6), win shares (97.0-75.5) and Value Over Replacement Players (40.1-31.8). This is due largely to Bryant’s poor output over the last two seasons, in which he has a 15.6 PER, -0.5 win shares and a 0.3 VORP.
No. 8 Kobe is not weighed down by these poor seasons; he never had a season with a negative VORP and benefited from the youthful dynamic that made Bryant one of the most captivating players of the post-Jordan era.
No. 24 takes his first loss of the series due to the later years, but history will likely forget the later years. You don’t remember Hakeem Olajuwon on the Raptors or Patrick Ewing on the Magic, right?
No. 24 leads 2-1
Eight All-Star game appearances (1998, 2000-06)
Two scoring titles (2003, 2006)
One slam dunk contest championship (1997)
Four All-NBA first team selections ( 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006)
Four NBA Finals appearances (2000-02, 2004)
Three championships (2000-02)
Four all-defensive first team selections (2000, 2003, 2004, 2006)
Ten All-Star appearances (2007-16)
Two scoring titles (2007, 2008)
Seven All-NBA first team selections (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)
Five All-NBA defensive team selections (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
Three NBA finals appearances (2008-10)
Two championships (2009, 2010)
Two-time NBA Finals MVP (2009, 2010)
2008 NBA MVP
Both Kobes won two scoring titles, and it was Bryant the younger that won his only career Slam Dunk Contest as a rookie in 1997.
But it is the elder Mamba that has the advantage on everything else. He has seven All-NBA First Team nods to four for No. 8, five All-NBA Defensive First Team selections to four, the only two NBA Finals MVP’s and the only regular season MVP of his career.
Once again, the fact that Kobe carried the team in his later years is cause for No. 24 to stand out in regards to individual accolades.
No. 24 leads 3-1.