The NBA Needs to Retire #24
Updated: Apr 11, 2020
Yesterday, when we learned of a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, we lost more than an NBA player. We lost a father and husband, a coach, an inspiration and a legend.
Kobe Bryant is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball, and to say that nobody expected him to pass as soon as he did or in the way that he did would be an understatement. The sports world seemed to stop for a few hours in shock of what had happened.
He was an inspiration to young stars across the league. Bryant entered the league and won three straight championships around the same time that young players like Zion Williamson, Trae Young, and Jayson Tatum were being born. And even to older players like John Wall or DeMar DeRozan, he was a role model to young kids who were deciding they wanted to play professional basketball.
Across the NBA, teams took 24-second shot clock violations in memory of him. Before games, stadiums took a moment of silence to remember him and his daughter. Players, coaches and fans alike cried as the news swept through the league. It extended past the league too, as the Grammy Awards, held inside Staples Center, also paid tribute to Bryant.
Understandably, the news was so sudden that the league could not reasonably cancel or postpone any of the games. While it would have been a nice sentiment and good for the mental state of many of the players, it was logistically not possible.
But the NBA can do more than just thoughts and prayers. The NBA has the power to mandate that no one can ever wear the number 24 ever again. In American sports, only two numbers have been retired league-wide. They are Jackie Robinson’s #42 in the MLB and Wayne Gretzky’s #99 in the NHL.
Bryant only ever played for the Lakers, but his impact went far outside of Los Angeles.
Sabrina Ionescu, a star guard for the University of Oregon, was a notable close friend of his, holding back tears before her game against Oregon State just after the news made it up to Oregon.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has already stated that the number 24 would be retired in Bryant’s honor for the team. It’s a testament to how big his legacy was in the world of basketball.
It definitely would not come as a shock if the league decided to retire Bryant’s number due to the impact that he had on the league and beyond. But, to play the Devil’s advocate, why his number and not anyone else's? Bryant was a fantastic player, but few would label him as the greatest of all time. Why not retire Michael Jordan’s #23?
It’s a reasonable question, with a simple--yet stupid--answer. Nobody has impacted as many people inside or outside of the game as Kobe Bryant has. You don’t shout “Jordan” or “LeBron” when throwing something into a trash can, because it has to be “Kobe”! Even far outside the world of basketball there are people who recognize his name.
I would also argue that the circumstances surrounding his passing also makes a case for why his number should be the one to be retired. His passing was one more tragic than someone like him would have deserved, and he was with his friend and daughter Gianna Bryant. For a man like Bryant to leave this Earth like that is horrible.
So, should they retire his number? I think that the right thing to do would be to prevent any other player from wearing 24 across the league. It would be a fitting and honorable tribute to a player that we’ll miss forever, but never forget.