Shooting in the Gym 24/8

Kobe Bryant is set to have both of his jersey numbers retired in the Staples Center tonight. Here’s a look back at the future Hall-of-Famer’s 20-year career.

One of the greatest players of all-time is receiving an honor that has never been done before in the NBA. Kobe Bryant will have his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys retired at halftime tonight when the Los Angeles Lakers face the Golden State Warriors.

The future Hall of Famer spent 20 seasons with the Lakers, the first 10 wearing No. 8 and the last 10, wearing No. 24. He’s also the first player in league history to play 20 seasons with a single team.

“Different animal, same beast,” Bryant tweeted in reference to how to distinguish between the two numbers.

Statistically, his two stints are quite similar and would be Hall of Fame worthy if they were separate careers.

During his tenure wearing No. 8, Bryant won three championships, scored 16,886 points, captured one scoring title, and appeared in eight All-Star games.

While wearing No. 24, he won two championships, including a seven-game classic against the Boston Celtics, scored 16,777 points, won a scoring title and appeared in 10 All-Star games.

“I think 24 was more challenging,” Bryant said. “I tend to gravitate to things that are harder to do. Physically, for me it was really hard to get up night in and night out. It’s a grind. Taking on the Boston Celtics and having a bone fragment in my foot during that series, having a broken finger, and muscling through that back half of the career was some of the toughest stretches of basketball ever. I guess if you force me to pick one, I’d probably go with 24 because of that.”

Often classified as the greatest Laker of all-time, Bryant has curated some of the greatest moments in the history of this league. He won the Slam-Dunk contest as a rookie. Alongside Shaquille O’Neal, he was part of the Lakers’ “three-peat” run of championships from 2000-02. He scored 62 points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks in 2005. If that isn’t enough, the man scored 81-points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006.

Bryant won his first regular season MVP award in 2008. In 2009, he broke the record for the most points scored (61) at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks. His favorite titles were won in 2009 and 2010 primarily because of the doubt that he couldn’t win without O’Neal and the historic rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics.

Bryant is the 3rd all-time leading scorer (33,643) behind Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Karl Malone, passing Michael Jordan in 2014.

Speaking of Jordan, Bryant’s playing style mimicked him down to every detail. From his high-flying dunks to his post fadeaway, to his competitiveness, Bryant took the blueprint and perfected it.

While the media and fans often discuss the comparisons between the two, Bryant doesn’t dwell too much into it.

“One thing about me is I’m only going to care about something that I know I can definitively win,” Bryant said. “If it’s not something I can definitively win, I’m not going to pay attention to it. If there’s an argument that’s happening, that argument is never going to go anywhere and everyone’s going to argue until they’re blue in the face so why would I think about it?”

Bryant’s desire to win was unlike anything we’ve ever seen. He studied this game like no other. When he wasn’t shooting in the gym, he was watching game film. If basketball was equivalent to education, he’d have multiple doctorate degrees.

His journey began as an 18-year-old rookie who had to earn his minutes and concluded as a five-time champion who can be considered as one of the five greatest players to ever pick up a basketball.

During his “farewell tour,” arenas sold out everywhere to witness his greatness.

The conclusion of the “Book of Mamba” came in Kobe-esque fashion. Bryant scored 60-points in the Lakers’ regular season finale against the Utah Jazz in 2016. Anyone who watched that game knew history was taking place.

While Bryant’s impact on the league can be found in a couple of players such as Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving, one thing is for certain. There will NEVER be another Kobe Bryant.