It didn't take long, nor should it have, but Kobe Bryant will have BOTH of his numbers retired by the Lakers on Monday when the Warriors come to the Staples Center. He will be the first player in NBA history to have both of his numbers raised into the rafters. He is unquestionably in the Top 5 players of all time to ever play the game. The man has 5 championships, 4 scoring titles, a MVP, 18 All-Star Games, and, oh yeah, he once scored 81 FREAKING POINTS IN A SINGLE GAME. The only thing to question is which Kobe was the best Kobe.
There's no denying that each number represents a different Kobe. Kobe in the 8 represented the kid. The young gunner who went toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan. Kobe said he came up with the number by combining his jersey number from a camp, #143. He also wore that number when he played over in Italy. Kobe stated that, "When I first came in at 8, is really trying to 'plant your flag' sort of thing." He also stated that, "I got to prove that I belong here in this league. I've got to prove that I'm one of the best in this league. You're going after them. It's nonstop energy and aggressiveness and stuff."
The switch to the number 24, showed everyone that it was time to move on and become the alpha-male killer that we came to love. He had to prove that he wasn't just a sidekick to Shaq. He still felt that he had to prove that he was great. He could have retired before the number switch and still been a Hall of Famer, but he wanted to push himself. "Then 24 is a growth from that," he explained. "Physical attributes aren't there the way they used to be, but the maturity level is greater. Marriage, kids. Start having a broader perspective being one of the older guys on the team now, as opposed to being the youngest. Things evolve."
With all that said, its time to settle the score. The debate will be broken down into 5 different categories:
Regular Season Stats
Legendary Defining Moments
REGULAR SEASON STATS (1-0 #24)
8: 707 games, 35.7 MPG, 23.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.6 BPG
24: 638 games, 36.6 MPG, 26.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Even though he played in more games and had more points, the better averages were in the 24. He played in 68 less games and only had 69 less points. He had 2 more All-tar appearances (yes the last one was a farewell bid, rather than actual play and value, but who I am to discount it). Based on simple math and averages alone, first round goes to 24.
PLAYOFF STATISTICS (2-0 #24)
8: 126 games, 22.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG
24: 94 games, 29.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Early Kobe had 9 total appearances with 3 titles, while the latter only had 6 appearances with just 2 titles. Yes, for some reason, all that anyone cares about with basketball is how many rings have you won. In this case, however, I would take the quality over the quantity. The first 3 championships were won with Shaq, were he wasn't the "star". His second tour, he became the Black Mamba, the man with a killer instinct. His averages were more in less games, thus round number 2 also goes to #24.
ADVANCED ANALYTICS (2-1 #24)
8: 23.2 PER, 97.0 win shares
24: 22.6 PER, 75.5 win shares
This category is for the real basketball geeky people, I am one of those people. This boils basically how great a player was in the time frame. His Player Efficiency Rating (it takes every statistical data point possible, and combines it into 1 stat) is slightly better in the 8, but what takes the cake involve win shares. Win shares are how many wins a player contributes to obtaining. As you can see, #8 has a far superior win share margin. This is due to the fact that the last 2 years Kobe played, he was basically a glorified bench player, but no one really remembers the end of players careers. With these stats, #8 tallies the first point.
LEGENDARY DEFINING MOMENTS (All Tied-UP 2-2)
8: 3 time NBA champion, his 81 point game, beat MJ in his final game, the alley-oop to Shaq that started the dynasty
24: 2 time NBA champion, back-to-back finals MVPs, 4 straight 50 point games, his only MVP, playing through a torn achilles
Yes, the early years had some electric moments, but most came with the assistance of Shaq. Yes, I know I have been making this argument, but hey it's a good one. Kobe in 24 was the man the team was built around and he did his best work as the centerpiece. He was back-to-back finals MVP, as well as earning a regular season MVP. Unfortunately for #24, this is legendary defining moments, and the best moment is his 81 point game. That will be the legacy as well as the 3 early championships he won. It is all tied up, 2-2 going into the final category.
CAREER ACCOLADES (3-2...?)
8: 8 All-Star games, 2 scoring titles, 1 slam dunk championship, 4 first-team all NBA, 4 finals with 3 championships, and 4 all defensive first-teams
24: 10 All-Star games, 2 scoring titles, 7 first-team all NBA, 5 all defensive first-teams, 3 finals with 2 championships, 2 time finals MVP, 1 regular season MVP
In this case, the elder Mamba is the best Mamba. Yes, the younger, more athletic Kobe was able to get a dunk championship, but nothing tops MVPs in the category. I'm sorry, but again, Kobe being the alpha created more accolades for himself and thus #24 is the best Kobe, not only for this round, but overall, 3-2 #24.
He spent his whole career with the Lakers, and he is rightfully having both numbers retired. Both Kobe's would be shoe-in hall of famers had they just had separate careers, but they are all for one man, the Black Mamba.
One man, two jerseys... a tale of two Kobes.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to give me your thoughts on what you think about which Kobe is the best Kobe. You can call the Drunk Line (440-37-DRUNK), let us hear it on the Craft Brewed Sports Facebook Group, or in the comments of the article. Also, be sure to tune in every Friday night around 9:30pm ET on Facebook Live for the newest episode where we'll be breaking down everything sports, beer, and shenanigan related.