Wearing the numbers eight and 24 has always taken some serious guts. Those two numbers hang in the rafters at Staples Center alongside other Lakers legends, and they both belong to five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant.
Now that Bryant has passed on, wearing either one of those numbers takes even more courage, but there are some that feel that those numbers should never be worn again. On Sunday, Dallas Mavericks team governor Mark Cuban announced that his team will retire the No. 24 permanently. While it wouldn’t surprising to see the rest of the league follow Cuban’s lead, players are taking matters into their own hands in the meantime.
On Tuesday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie and Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross were changing their jersey numbers from eight to 26 and 31, respectively.
Sources: Multiple NBA players have begun informally retiring Kobe Bryant’s jersey number(s) as a tribute — with Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie among them, changing from No. 8 to No. 26.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 28, 2020
Sources: Orlando’s Terrence Ross has changed his jersey number from No. 8 to No. 31 in honor of the late Kobe Bryant, who wore Nos. 8 and 24. League evaluating this case-by-case. https://t.co/go557WBieX— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 28, 2020
The NBA typically makes players wait for a new season to start to allow players to change a jersey number but Dinwiddie has been granted permission to make the switch to No. 26, according to a source familiar with the decision— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) January 28, 2020
Everything in life evolves. #26— Spencer Dinwiddie (@SDinwiddie_25) January 28, 2020
With Dinwiddie and Ross’s switches approved and Trae Young only wearing No. 8 for the Atlanta Hawks’ game on Sunday to honor Bryant, there are now 19 NBA players wearing No. 8, and 12 wearing the No. 24, according to Basketball Reference.
That number will likely decrease within the coming days, but it doesn’t sound like every player is guaranteed to get their request accepted:
Requests by current NBA players to change from No. 8 or No. 24 to a new number in tribute to Kobe Bryant, like the Nets' Spencer Dinwiddie just did, will be reviewed by the NBA on a case-by-case basis, according to a source briefed on the process— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) January 28, 2020
That could be because each player has a different fiscal impact on the NBA’s official jersey retailer, Nike.
Dinwiddie and Ross are both relatively popular players, but not as popular as a player like Kemba Walker, who wears the No. 8 for the Boston Celtics and is ranked 14th in NBA jersey sales. The Chicago Bulls are also among the top-10 jersey-sellers in the league, and two of their young stars, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, wear eight and 24, respectively.
There’s a chance they approve all requests to avoid the public backlash, but they’re also the same company that didn’t let LeBron James gift Anthony Davis the number 23 this season because of the financial hit they would have taken.
For that reason, don’t expect the league to retire Bryant’s jersey until this summer, if they do it at all.