Wednesday, September 27th, 2006 at 10:07 am  |  45 responses


Why Kobe Bryant switched numbers. (It’s not just because he’s crazy.) (Well, OK, maybe it is. But that doesn’t mean we can’t propose other reasons.)

I’ve been meaning to talk about this for a while. Call me cynical, but I’m not buying that Kobe changed to No. 24 just because it was the first number he wore in high school. What, it took him this long to remember that fact? Was he repressing his early years? If he really wanted to wear 24, why not change earlier? Or wear it from the beginning? Obviously the Lakers haven’t retired it or anything.

No, 8 worked fine for years, almost a decade. He sold a lot of jerseys, came up with a good reason for wearing it (adding together his adidas ABCD number of 143), never seemed to have a problem with it. Kobe made 8 a number that would forever be associated with him, and pretty much him alone. Well, and Antoine Walker. And Yogi Berra. And Troy Aikman. And Steve Young. And Gary Carter.

But look, it doesn’t make any sense for him to change now. He’s coming up on 30, as established as an NBA player can be. There’s really no precedent of an athlete of his stature just randomly changing his number in the prime of his career without changing teams or being Michael Jordan (and we all remember how well that worked out for him). Then again, I have some theories.

1. Nike is behind this. New shoe contract, new number. What with the charges in Colorado, and adidas re-issuing his old signature shoes as “The Crazy Eights,” maybe the powers-that-be thought it would be best for Kobe to make a clean break. Since he’s obviously a Laker for life, this was all they could do.

2. Kobe wants to sell more jerseys. After a dip in sales following the whole Colorado thing, Kobe’s back in the top five for jersey sales. But seeing that he’s been on the same team and worn the same number for his whole career, how does he get established fans—who already have his jersey—to buy new ones? Oh.

3. The Spinal Tap theory. It’s…it’s…one more. One more than Michael Jordan’s—and, more importantly, Lebron James’s—23. There’s no doubt that Kobe has been eclipsed in popularity by the young Mr. James. There’s also no doubt that, on some level, this bothers Kobe a great deal. This is a simple, if childish, solution. Watch him turn it up to 11 on the court this year, too.

4. He’s a big Jack Bauer fan. Hey, I’ve never watched the show, but that doesn’t mean Kobe hasn’t. It definitely wouldn’t surprise me if Kobe identified with someone who saves the world on a weekly basis.

5. He’s a big Tom Chambers fan. OK, that one I DON’T believe.

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  • Ryan

    I would guess that your first two theories are the only logical reasons why Kobe would switch numbers. However, the rules of logic do not always apply when speaking about Kobe Bryant. That being said financial incentives for either Kobe, and or Nike seem to be a very likely motive. Cynical as that may seem.

  • dre

    i thought he did say that it has to do with 24 hrs of the day… always working and improving on his game or something like that

  • Patrick LeSane

    I don’t believe it is any of that. I believe that Kobe change his number to 24 to show the world that he wants to be better than Jordan was. Think about it. The MJ the greastest player to play the game number was 23, so he figured that if his number was 24 it would symbolize that he is better than Jordan. Deep, I know. But he will never be MJ!!

  • BluEagleDaKing4

    2×4=8. nah… he just wants 24 for no particular reason. the real question is, how long before he goes back to number 8?

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Yeah, I heard the 24 hours of the day thing, too. Contrary to popular belief, though, Kobe does sleep sometimes. So a better number for that would be 16 or 17 or something. Unless, of course, he’s found a way to work out in his sleep.

  • Max Airington

    I think he sleeps upside down like Batman.

  • Max Airington

    For the record, Im with reason number one….

  • Boing Dynasty

    I think is pretty obvious he’s a BIG Mo Pete fan.
    About that severing ties with Adidas thing, all the revenue from all these added jersey sales is going straight to Adidas, being there the official supplier now, can’t be Nike behind it. Unless thier bring the Swing Man jerseys back, which are better jerseys anyway.


    Of course it can’t be that he wants a new start, leaving the past behind. Have we not all reached a point in life where you leave the old you behind and become a more mature or new person? (and maybe buy something new to celebrate such an occasion? like a car say). Has he not said the wants 8 to be for the first half of his career and he wants 24 for the last? Or did I just read that on the ESPN.com? Either way .. grand conspiracies of jearsey sales, nike backed ploys and popularity contests are completely assenine. Like he needs more money. What is he a used car salesman?.. c’mon get real.

  • Allen

    The number 24 upside down closely resembles the Native American Hopi sign for “He who walks on air”.


    Or maybe he is still using his superior math skills to come up with his number. After all 2 X 4 = 8. Maybe he plans on being twice as good as he was in the first half of his career.

    I’m not a Kobe lover by any means, but leave they guy alone before he gets rushed to the hospital like T.O. :P

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    I’m not questioning his need for a new start, but does changing a freaking jersey number really provide that? NO! All it does is make people like me speculate even more about how much of a nut job he is. Which is, if I’m correct, exactly the opposite of what he wants?


    How does it (changing the #) NOT provide that?. It’s just like a girl getting a new outfit or a makeover after a life changing experience or decison for a new start. Does that make her a nut job?

    And I am assuming your nut job theory has been brewing long before this event. I’m sure what he wants is to do his job and be left alone. But talent of his caliber comes with a price. That being the backlash of people like yourself whom due to a lack of understanding and knowing an individual classify their behaviour as a nut job. He grew up in a different culture with different beliefs and views on life. I come from the same place as he and believe me, even I have a hard time understanding the Western way of life sometimes and I’m a nobody. I cannot imagine having to deal with that while being someone who’s life is in the spotlight 24/7.

  • Max Airington

    Changing a number shouldn’t be enough to condemn someone as a “nut job”. Especially considering everyone’s fondness for #45. How’d that new start work out for him? If Amare isnt the same this year, you gonna blame it on his number or his knee?

  • Tom Jackson

    I thought Mike only changed to #45 because the number had been retired by the league and he only wore it long enough to get it unretired. But I was also like 12 back then, so maybe I’m wrong.

  • Max Airington

    I just remember him sayingf that #45 was a fresh start, and #23 was the last one his father had seen him play in. Of course right after the loss in Orlando, he changed his number right back to #23 during the playoffs. Just one more thing no one else would be allowed to get away with….

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    I don’t think Kobe’s nuts BECAUSE he’s changing his number, I think changing his number is just another sign that he’s nuts. Having watched Kobe for years, and spoken to him fairly extensively on several occasions, I think I’m at least semi-qualified to give my opinion on KB8. Um, 24.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    And hey, don’t get me wrong—I think Kobe does a lot of great things, like his camp in Lower Merion this year, and the clinic he just did in New Orleans. I LIKE the guy. I just think he has a whole barrel of unresolved identity issues with himself.

  • Max Airington


  • Max Airington

    I really think the source of his identity crisis is that he’s been in stark contrast from everyone else in practically every environment of his life. Expatriated American in Italy. The contrast of Philly and Lower Merion is almost laughable. Seventeen years old on an NBA team, with very little in common with his peers outside of basketball. Then theres his talent which seperates him even further.

    In a world where we can all too easily pigenhole and stereotype folks, the man is unclassifiable and lives his life under a microscope. I understand if he’d be a little weird. Shit, I’d have cracked at 21.

  • albie1kenobi

    MJ changed his number to 45 because that was his baseball jersey number. so i think that change was quite justified. he WAS fined when he changed his number back to 23 in game 2 in the 2nd round of playoff in 95, after the infamous turnover when nick anderson poked the ball loose from behind and penny fed horace grant on a fast break dunk, then MJ uncharacteristically (is that a word?) passed a potential game winner to pip who was getting ready for a rebound instead of expecting a pass. two turnover by MJ in the clutch, no wonder he dropped that number right there.

  • Lance Uppercut

    2572 x 17 – 16745 + 884 – 27839 = 24

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    And I kind of forgot that Amare was changing his number this year. Let’s just hope this doesn’t become a trend. Although I would welcome more 0s and 00s (yeah, Chief).

  • Tim Dennis

    Maybe He is boys with Lamar Odom so much..

    24 hours – 7 days aweek..

    Kobe 24 Odom 7
    Shaq aka Superman,,, Wade Aka Flash?

    Ring a bell haha
    if yall uses that 24-7 in slam i deserve some credit haha


    Thank you Max for expressing what I was trying to say so eloquently and adding a few points I left out cuz i didn’t want to “go off on a rant”.

  • t dot j.

    kobe, kobe, kobe, just admit you wanna be like mike and change ur number to 23 or does ur ego want to up it just a notch?

  • t dot j.

    still h8tin on the 81 u dropped on my team. looseball.

  • Drolfe

    Yep! Reason number 2 for sure. I wrote a letter to Slam a while ago which didn’t get published (of course) trying to get at that, amoung other things. I’m bummed about it because ive got a no 8 jersey from his second season with the ill round neck. Now i gotta get a new one in the silly new Adidas style. Lousy ever-changing fashion…

  • DVLb0y613

    I think cause Kobe 8 would always be remembered and mentioned in the same breath with “Shaq’s Lakers”…and that probably bothers him, and Maybe he wants to be known, and remembered as Kobe version 2.4 and not the old ocho Shaq sidekick..Or it’s probably the money, it’s always the money…

  • Matthew

    Wasn’t Orlando Woolridge 0 when he balled for the Bulls?? And Tony Delk comes to mind as 00.

  • so fresh n so clean

    I heard 24 was for all about ball, 24 hours a day…however I say he changes his number to 34 so they retire it as Kob’s number and not Shaqs..

  • Joe

    Thanks everyone. I just realized I have no life, mainly because I’m reading a bunch of lame arguments about why Kobe changed his number. Who cares? He’ll drop 35 per again this year no matter what number he’s wearing. As a former Kobe hater, I’ve learned not to doubt and not to complain. Accept Greatness.

  • Jesse

    Who cares why his number is changing he is still going to be the best nba player for years to come. He’s only going to get better and surprise all of laker fans and laker haters.3 times 8 = 24


  • http://yahoo Nino

    KObe still rocks and will domenate no matter what number he is wearing. Love him or hate him, you can still argue with each other but there is no doubt that he has talent and play’s well ! ! !

  • Ryan

    ok the reason his # is 24 is bcuz his frend from highschool died and his number was 2 and kobe wanted that # to remember his friend ok? not cuz of all that load u people hav been sayin

  • Name (required)

    I think that its reason one and two. Kobe’s best jersey was that blue and white lakers KB8 one and the purple and gold is getting old.

  • KOBY

    To all u guys and RYAN your wrong. 1st he wanted #33 his father’s number But we all know the laker that wore that. anyway he went with his high school number 24. he only began wearing 8 when he went to an adidas camp and 24 was taken so he went with 8 2 x 4= 8. and thats how he began wearing 8. i’m not a hater but didnt like how he put SHAQ out there when he got caught cheating!

  • Eric Singleton

    This dude has been trying to be MJ right from the start of his career. The only admission to that fact is that he only had MJ videos to watch growing up in Italy. His mannerism on the court and his interviews, the words he uses, are like watching a cheaply made B rated movie of MJ. He changed his number because MJ changed his to 45 when he returned from Baseball. Whats next?? He’ll go back to #8 if the make Playoffs because thats what MJ did!! Hey KOBE it did’nt work for MJ if your memory works, the Bulls lost to the Majic remember!! Try being yourself, and not MJ, like when you were a Rook and everyone will like you even the diehard MJ fans ’cause there will never be another ONE like MJ!!

  • Ekam

    24 means 1 better then jordan. HE is.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Mitchofizzo

    he changed his number to 24 becuz of this

    his number was 8, he won 3 championships

    8X3= 24

    trust me i know this for a fact

  • http://slamonline.com/online/2006/09/kb24/ Hassaan

    24 means 1 better than Jordan and he is

  • J-roc

    Put kobe on slam 107

  • tutti

    he likes 24 women rather than 8

  • Putu-Boy

    I don’t think Kobe is crazy just because he switched numbers. I mean look at Shaq, he switched teams and you didn’t call him crazy. I just don’t know why people are making such a big fuss about switching from number 8-24. Personally I think number 24 is better:D.

  • kobe_kajmer

    he is number 1 so anything he do was correct