No. 8 and No. 24 will never be worn again in purple and gold.
At halftime of Monday’s game against Golden State, Kobe Bryant stood at center court and watched as his jersey numbers were revealed in the Staples Center rafters, retired for the rest of franchise history.
Behind Bryant stood a horde of NBA legends and former teammates — from Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Derek Fisher and Shaquille O’Neal to Allen Iverson and Bill Russell.
Before the ceremony began, the arena videoboard showed Bryant’s short film, “Dear Basketball” — an ode to the sport he loves that he wrote when he announced his retirement in November 2015.
After that, Bryant’s close friend and President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson addressed the sold-out crowd that chanted “Ko-be! Ko-be!”
“We’re here to celebrate the greatest who’s ever worn the purple and gold,” Johnson said. “For 20 years, he thrilled us; he made us scratch our heads (and say), ‘What did we just see? What did we just witness?’ And he gave us five NBA championships.”
Johnson reminisced about former general manager Jerry West calling him back in 1996 to rave about “the greatest (draft) workout I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”
Johnson also recalled Kobe’s 81-point game and 60-point career finale to thunderous cheers before passing the microphone on to Lakers Owner and President Jeanie Buss.
Buss read letters of appreciation from Lakers fans to Kobe. She also offered her own gratitude to the franchise’s all-time leader in scoring, steals, 3-pointers, free throws and games played.
“What we’re celebrating tonight is the journey that you took us on for those 20 years,” Buss said to Bryant. “We are retiring both your numbers, because if you separated each of the accomplishments under those numbers, each of those players would qualify for the Hall of Fame.”
Then came the moment of the night, as two curtains were removed to reveal Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 on opposite sides of the jersey retired for legendary announcer Chick Hearn.
Bryant then stepped into the spotlight.
He thanked Jeanie Buss’ father, late owner Dr. Jerry Buss, for “believing in this skinny little kid from Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia.”
He also offered his thanks to the fans for motivating him with their expectations, and to his family sitting courtside.
Bryant spoke to his appreciation for the legends who came before him, but also kept an eye toward the future.
“It’s also about the next generation,” Bryant said. “It’s about this current Laker roster that we have here. It’s about embodying the spirit that exists in those jerseys up there and carrying this organization forward so that the next 20 years are better than the past 20 years.”
And, of course, he signed off with his trademark.