Kobe Bryant death: NBA players begin changing their jersey numbers as a show of respect, per report

As the sports world and NBA continue to mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant, some players are taking further actions to pay their respects to the Lakers legend.

While both numbers synonymous with Bryant are already illuminated in the rafters of Staples Center, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban already said that no player will wear No. 24 for Dallas ever again, other teams around the league may soon follow suit. Yet some players are already taking it upon themselves to retire the Black Mamba’s numbers unofficially following his untimely death on Sunday, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie decided to change his jersey number from No. 8 to No. 26 out of respect for Bryant. The Nets announced the jersey change on Twitter Tuesday, with Dinwiddie saying that he chose 26 because “20” and “6” represent the birth dates for both his son Elijah (April 20) and his own (April 6). He also pointed out that there are other obvious reasons for the number, one of which being that two plus six equals eight, so in some way it still honors Bryant as well. 

The Orlando Magic’s Terrence Ross will also be making the switch, per Charania. Ross will turn in his No. 8 jersey for No. 31 which is what he wore as a member of the Toronto Raptors and his first two seasons with the Magic. However, per league rules, all jersey changes must be approved. The league office will handle all requests they’re getting for players wanting to change their numbers from No. 8 and No. 24 on a case-by-case basis according to New York Times’ Marc Stein. Dinwiddie, though, already got his approval and will debut his new number Wednesday when the Nets play the Pistons, per ESPN’s Malika Andrews.

No. 8 is tied for the second-most popular number worn by players in the league this season with 19 players wearing it, while 11 others wear the No. 24. Players like Kemba Walker, Zach LaVine, Jordan Clarkson, Buddy Hield and Kent Bazemore all wear one of Kobe’s numbers, but that might soon change.

Also making a switch is Lakers guard Quinn Cook, who according to Charania, is changing his jersey number from No. 2 to No. 28 in honor of Kobe’s daughter, Gianna Bryant. She wore No. 2, which combines with Kobe’s No. 8.

The Lakers legend was one of nine passengers who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday afternoon. Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was also aboard the helicopter when it crashed. In the wake of Bryant’s death, players across the league have mourned the passing of one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. While No. 24 is more commonly associated with Kobe, he became a legend wearing both numbers. 

He played 10 seasons wearing each number, scored over 16,000 points in each jersey and won a combined five championships with the No. 8 and No. 24 on his back. He started his NBA career wearing No. 8 because that is the number he wore when he was playing basketball in Italy as a child. Then, 10 years into his already historic career, Bryant switched to No. 24 because that’s what he wore in high school. At the time of him entering the league, No. 24 was already taken by George McCloud.

Bryant often spoke of the two numbers like they were two different chapters in his basketball life. Ahead of his retirement in 2016, Bryant said that he associates the No. 8 jersey with him trying to “plant his flag” in the league. When he changed to No. 24, that was as if he was shedding his skin and developing and growing into a new player.

With the amount of impact and influence Bryant had on a lot of players in the league, Dinwiddie and Ross likely won’t be the only players to trade in their No. 8 jersey for a new number.

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