The Lakers sent a letter informing season-ticket holders to “hold on to your tickets” for Lonzo Ball’s debut against Stephen Curry, because the team would be hosting a “special event” beforehand, per TMZ Sports. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne confirmed the team’s plans to retire Bryant’s jersey.
Tickets for the game are currently sold out. They were being sold on the team’s ticket exchange website for between $645 and $9,152 in the hours after the news broke. On the day before TMZ Sports reported the story, tickets were available for as low as $125, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell.
Bryant retired at the end of the 2015-16 season and is widely considered one of the 10 greatest players in league history. It comes as no shock that the 18-time All-Star, five-time champion and 2008 MVP will join Wilt Chamberlain (No. 13), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25), Magic Johnson (32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), Shaquille O’Neal (34), James Worthy (42), Jerry West (44) and Jamaal Wilkes (52) as the 10th player in team history to have his number retired. That 614 days will pass between Bryant scoring 60 points in his final game for the Lakers and the team finally retiring his jersey is the only surprise here.
The only mystery then was whether the Lakers would retire Bryant’s No. 8, No. 24 or both. He wore No. 8 for his first 10 seasons on the Lakers, averaging 23.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists, while helping the franchise to three championships alongside Shaquille O’Neal. Bryant switched to No. 24 before the 2006-07 season and played another 10 seasons, averaging 26.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists, leading the Lakers to two more titles and capturing his lone MVP. Both stretches are worthy.
Then, Shelburne cleared up any confusion:
Update. BOTH of Kobe's numbers will be retired.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) September 12, 2017
When asked in January 2016 which number will be retired, then-Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told the Los Angeles Times, “I don’t know the answer. Obviously it’s going to be 8, 24 or it could be both.” The team has since replaced Kupchak as GM with Rob Pelinka, Bryant’s former agent.
The number switch came as Bryant’s approval rating sunk following a public breakup with Shaq, his 2003 sexual assault case in Colorado and the team’s first playoff absence in more than a decade. Exact reasons for Bryant switching from No. 8 to the number he wore to begin his prep career are unclear.
Bryant didn’t seem to mind which number(s) the Lakers ultimately chose to retire, telling Shelburne in August 2016, “It’ll be pretty hard for someone else to wear the other one.” Nobody on the Lakers has worn either number since Bryant last wore it, and neither 8 nor 24 are listed on the current roster.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) August 24, 2016
The rival Boston Celtics announced plans last month to retire the No. 34 worn by Bryant’s longtime nemesis Paul Pierce before a Feb. 11 game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Pierce retired this summer.
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