Was Kobe Bryant’s Change From No. 8 to No. 24 a Shot at Michael Jordan?

Kobe Bryant basically had two Hall of Fame careers. One wearing the No. 8 jersey and one when he wore No. 24. Kobe’s career in both numbers was so unbelievable that the Lakers retired his two jerseys.

NBA legend Kevin Garnett thinks that Kobe Bryant changed jersey numbers from No. 8 to No. 24 to be ahead of Michael Jordan’s iconic No. 23.

“People don’t even know what the 24 stand for, people don’t even understand it that that was a sign to everybody that he was a step above 23… And that was a shot at Mike, straight up like n—— I’m better than you,” Garnett explained in an episode of KG Certified on SHOWTIME Basketball.

“…it was all about catching MJ and disappearing MJ and surpassing MJ, that’s all 24 is about.”

In his book The Mamba Mentality: How I Play, Bryant explained that he studied his first games against Jordan and concluded that his defense was bad because his balance was off.

“Thankfully, I actually saw this photo back in 1998. After studying it, I corrected my posture and balance. After that, it was a lot harder to operate against me in the post,” Bryant wrote.

Kobe never feared Jordan, not even before his first game against him.

“First time I was getting ready to face Jordan. I had a teammate and he goes to me and said, ‘Hey, you want some advice? Whatever you do, don’t look him [Jordan] in the eye.’

Wait, excuse me? Why the hell would I not look him in the eye? I don’t think my teammate understood that I’m that too. Can’t f****** look me in the eye either buddy,” Bryant said in the Showtime/CBS Sports documentary “Kobe Bryant’s Muse” from 2015.

Kobe, like Jordan, was fearless regardless of who he had to face. Jordan taught Bryant to never back down from a challenge, even when the odds were against him, which helped him get ready to take on his opponents any time, including his idol Jordan.

It’s easy to see how Jordan’s accomplishments influenced Bryant’s mentality. Jordan played for 11 championships and never lost:

  • NCAA Championship: 1-0
  • Olympic Gold Medal games: 2-0
  • FIBA Gold Medal games: 2-0
  • NBA Finals: 6-0

Jordan is still the only player in league history to win the NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards.

Eduardo Solano