An anomaly. A polarizing figure who drew admiration from supporters and ire from detractors with very little in-between. For 20 years, Kobe Bryant relentlessly pursued greatness, and became one of the most respected competitors to ever take the court as a result. Today, the Los Angeles Lakers honor him with a jersey retirement ceremony.
Of course, for a player who insisted on doing things his way, this ceremony will be unlike any other before it. Bryant will become the first player in NBA history to have two different numbers retired by the same franchise when his 8 and 24 are raised into the Staples Center rafters on Monday night. It's a fitting gesture for a player who had two great, but very distinct eras of his career.
Bryant wore 8 for the first 10 years of his career, a time of self discovery and evolving from sidekick to leading man. Number 4 was worn by the more grizzled version of Kobe, who sacrificed some of his individual accolades to help the Lakers win again. Whether he was Frobe or the Black Mamba, Bryant left everything he had on the court. Different animal, same beast.
As the Lakers commemorate another franchise legend, we're taking a look back at Bryant's best games wearing both of his jersey numbers, and the sneakers he donned in those performances.
June 4, 2000 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Score: Trail Blazers 84, Lakers 89
Stats: 25 Points, 11 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 4 Blocks
Shoe: Adidas The Kobe
The height of the early-2000s rivalry between the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers was Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, which is better known as "The Comeback." Down by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter, the Lakers' 1-2 punch of Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal led a 15-0 run and capped the rally off with an alley-oop that may go down as the defining moment of the three-peat.
May 13, 2001 vs. sacramento kings
Score: Lakers 119, Kings 113
Stats: 48 Points, 16 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 2 Steals, 1 Block
Shoe: Adidas The Kobe
The 3-Peat Lakers generally had cakewalks in the NBA Finals, but the road there was rarely easy. Perhaps their main rivals were the Sacramento Kings, a team they actually swept in the 2001 Western Conference Semifinals. Bryant delivered the closing blow with one of his all-time great playoff performances in Game 4. He had 48 points and 16 rebounds in the Lakers' 119-113 victory.
March 28, 2003 vs. washington wizards
Score: Wizards 94, Lakers 108
Stats: 55 Points, 5 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 3 Steals
Shoe: Air Jordan 8 Retro PE
Even in Kobe Bryant's wildest dreams (and we're sure they're pretty wild), he couldn't have possibly imagined dropping a double-nickel on his hero while wearing his sneakers. However, that's exactly what happened in his final head-to-head against Jordan and the Washington Wizards. Bryant flipped the script, hitting Jordan and whatever Wizards defender they threw at him with an onslaught of moves he had patterned after the legend. There was also the moment, pictured above, when Bryant ran into Jordan and helped picked the old man up from the floor. Jordan didn't pass the torch—Bryant took it, and this is when it happened.
December 20, 2005 vs. dallas mavericks
Score: Mavericks 90, Lakers 112
Stats: 62 Points, 8 Rebounds, 3 Steals
Shoe: Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K5
Some would argue that this performance is actually better than Bryant's 81-point outing. Recording 62 points and 8 rebounds is a career-defining, all-time great game for anybody. Bryant, however, did this in just 32 minutes of action and didn't play in the 4th quarter. Shooting at a 58 percent clip, Bryant almost certainly would have hit for 70 on this day, and likely beyond had he played in the final frame.
january 22, 2006 vs. toronto raptors
Score: Raptors 104, Lakers 122
Stats: 81 Points, 6 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 3 Steals, 1 Block
Shoe: Nike Zoom Kobe 1
With the greatest offensive performance in modern NBA history, Kobe Bryant lit the Toronto Raptors up for 81 points in this Sunday matinee. Bryant was an efficient 61 percent from the field to net his 81, so it wasn't purely the result of volume shooting. Also, the Lakers needed the buckets, trailing by as many as 18 points in the third quarter. Because video hasn't surfaced and likely never will, Wilt Chamberlain's 100 is almost mythical—the world actually witnessed Kobe go peak mamba mode on Jalen Rose and company.
march 16, 2007 vs. portland trail blazers
Score: Trail Blazers 111, Lakers 116
Stats: 65 Points, 7 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 3 Steals
Shoe: Nike Zoom Kobe 2
Few franchises were tortured by Kobe like the Portland Trail Blazers. In this duel, he carried the Lakers by making a bevy of difficult, well defended shots, which later became known as "Mamba Mode." Three consecutive Bryant three-pointers in the final minutes of regulation sent the game to overtime, where he tacked on another 9 points, including a ridiculous sideline three, to seal the deal. This game also began a run of four-straight 50-point games for Bryant.
march 22, 2007 vs. memphis grizzlies
Score: Lakers 121, Grizzlies 119
Stats: 60 Points, 5 Rebounds, 4 Assists
Shoe: Nike Zoom Kobe 2 "Carpe Diem"
In the third game of his 50-point streak, Kobe hung 60 on future teammate Pau Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies. Once again, the Lakers needed every single one of his buckets, as they barely edged out the Grizz by two points to stay afloat in the playoff race.
April 23, 2008 vs. denver nuggets
Score: Nuggets 107, Lakers 122
Stats: 49 Points, 4 Rebounds, 10 Assists, 1 Steal, 1 Block
Shoe: Nike Zoom Kobe 3
Of Kobe's numerous distinctively great playoff performances, his schooling of the Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony-led Denver Nuggets ranks highly. His 49 points and 10 dimes in Game 2 of this first round series gave the Lakers a commanding lead, which they'd later turn into a sweep and an eventual NBA Finals appearance.
February 2, 2009 vs. new york knicks
Score: Lakers 126, Knicks 117
Stats: 61 Points, 3 Assists, 1 Block
Shoes: Nike Zoom Kobe 4 "Del Sol"
Every great perimeter player in NBA history seems to have that one iconic performance at Madison Square Garden. For Kobe Bryant, his came on Feb. 2, 2009, when he dropped 61 points on the Knicks. It was an efficient night from the floor for Bryant, who connected on 19-of-31 shots, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range and 20-of-20 from the free throw line.
april 13, 2016 vs. utah jazz
Score: Jazz 96, Lakers 101
Stats: 60 Points, 4 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 1 Steal, 1 Block
Shoe: Nike Kobe 11 Elite "FTB"
The very definition of going out on your own terms, Kobe ridded himself of every bit of basketball he had left in his body in the final game of his career. It wasn't the most efficient outing—it took him 50 shots to rack up 60 points, but there was something special about watching the old man, battered and beaten down from numerous career-altering injuries, make peace with his arrival at the end of the road. 60 points is 60 points, the Lakers won, and Kobe finished with an unprecedented performance before walking away to a raucous ovation from the Lakers faithful.