Numbers Game: Kobe Bryant’s Shirt Numbers Join The Hall Of Fame

It has been announced by the Los Angeles Lakers that Kobe Bryant will have his jersey retired by the team during halftime of their Dec. 18 game against the Warriors. The only question the Lakers had to answer was which jersey number should they retire…8 or 24?

“The hell with it, we’ll throw ’em both up in the rafters” – The Lakers (probably).

It is certainly an unprecedented situation. Not many players stick with a team for 20 years like Bryant did with the Lakers, but most players also don’t switch numbers halfway through their careers, either.

During his 20-year career with the Lakers, Bryant delivered five championships, made 18 All-Star teams, and scored 33,643 points which put him third all-time in points scored.

The Lakers generally wait until players are elected into the basketball Hall of Fame before retiring a jersey, but there is a zero percent chance Kobe doesn’t get in on the first ballot.

Bryant is the 10th player to have his number(s) retired by the Lakers and will join these nine other Hall of Famers in the Staples Center rafters:

Wilt Chamberlin (13)

Wilt Chamberlin was one of the most influential basketball players in the history of the game. He was a mythical size for a basketball player in the 1960’s, standing at 7-foot-1. He towered over the competition, which was evident in the 1960-61 season when he averaged 50 points per game. Those are Nintendo numbers right there.

Chamberlin spent the final four seasons of his NBA career with the Lakers and helped them win a title in 1972.

Elgin Baylor (22)

Elgin Baylor took home the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 1959, just one year before Wilt Chamberlin took the honor a year later. Many people don’t know about Baylor even though he averaged a double – double for his career (27.4 ppg and 13.5 rebounds per game). He was overshadowed by the vast accomplishments of Chamberlin. It is reported that Baylor possessed the same type of razzle-dazzle Jordan and Dr. J had and that he was years ahead of his time.

Baylor was a Laker between 1960 -1972 (12 seasons) and retired nine games into the ’72 title season after he came to the conclusion that his legs wouldn’t hold up for a full season.

Gail Goodrich (25)

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Gail Goodrich spent nine of his 14 years of professional basketball with the Lakers organization. During those nine seasons, he averaged 19 ppg and finished his career with 19,181 points. He was drafted by the Lakers in 1965 and spent the first three years of his career there before he was sent to the Phoenix Suns during the NBA expansion draft in 1968.

Goodrich was traded back to the Lakers in 1970, which was perfect timing as the team was assembling stars like Jerry West and Chamberlin, for a run at the 1972 NBA title.

Magic Johnson (32)

Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson revolutionized the point guard position in the NBA. Historically point guards were smaller players known to pass well and score. Johnson, at 6-foot-9, is arguably the greatest passer in NBA history and commanded the Lakers back court. He was essentially LeBron James…before Lebron James.

Johnson led the league in assists four times during his career and averaged 19.5 ppg and 11.2 assists per game. He was a Laker for life and brought home NBA Finals victories in 1980, ’82, ’85, ’87, and ’88.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33)

As Wilt Chamberlin was finishing up his career with the Lakers in the early 70s, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was just getting started. The Lakers simply replaced the 7-foot-1 Chamberlin with a 7-foot-2 Abdul-Jabbar.

Kareen started his career with the Milwaukee Bucks before being traded to Los Angeles in 1975, where he would spend the rest of his 20-year career. In 14 seasons with the Lakers Abdul-Jabbar averaged 22.1 ppg and finished his career as the all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points – a record that is still standing today.

Kareem was a part of the Lakers five championships during the 1980’s and was an assistant coach for the 2009 and 2010 championship teams.

Shaquille O’Neal (34)

Shaq was described by Kobe Bryant as ‘the most dominant players of this generation’. And rightfully so. There is no set blueprint to stopping O’Neal when he was being guarded down low. You’d be lucky to stop him and even more lucky if you didn’t get injured in the process.

Shaq spent eight seasons – and technically the prime of his career – in Los Angeles, leading them to titles in 2000, ’01, and 0’2. He averaged a double – double as a Laker with 27 ppg and 11.8 rpg.

James Worthy (42)

James Worthy was the No.1 overall pick by the Lakers in the 1982 NBA Draft. Worthy would spend his entire 12-year career with the Lakers averaging 17.6 ppg. He played a key role in helping the Lakers win titles in 1985, ’87, and ’88.

Worthy was given the nickname ‘Big Game James’ for his prowess in the playoffs where he averaged 21.1 ppg – a grand total of 3,022 points in the postseason.

Jerry West (44)

Even though he only won one championship with the Lakers in 1972, Jerry West was deemed ‘Mr. Clutch’. West made it to the playoffs in each of his 14 seasons with the Lakers and averaged 29.1 ppg. During the 1964-65 playoffs, he averaged 40 ppg in 11 games played. West played during the same era as Chamberlin and Baylor and averaged 27 ppg in his 14-year career.

West, who played during the same era as Chamberlin and Baylor, averaged 27 ppg for his career. He is best known for being ‘the logo’, as it is his silhouette which the NBA uses for their logo.

Jamaal Wilkes (52)

Jamaal Wilkes spent eight of his 12 NBA seasons with the Lakers and averaged 18.4 ppg over that span. He was part of the original “Showtime Lakers” in the early 1980’s and played on the 1980, ’82, and ’85 championship teams (he didn’t play in the ’85 playoffs due to injury).

Between 1980 – 1983, Wilkes averaged 19.9 ppg in 48 playoff games for Los Angeles.