Jersey re­tire­ment

In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, Bryant de­serves to be feted for his ac­com­plish­ments. He will find his uni­forms raised on Dec. 18, and it’s not wrong to sur­mise that, some­time af­ter, he will then see the un­veil­ing of his statue out­side Sta­ples Cen­ter. Th­ese days, h

Business World - - SPORTS - AN­THONY L. CUAYCONG AN­THONY L. CUAYCONG has been writ­ing Court­side since Busi­nessWorld in­tro­duced a Sports sec­tion in 1994. He is the Se­nior Vice-Pres­i­dent and Gen­eral Man­ager of Ba­sic En­ergy Corp.

When news of Kobe Bryant’s up­com­ing jersey re­tire­ment first hit hoops cir­cles yes­ter­day, not a few quar­ters won­dered what num­ber the Lak­ers would opt to hang in the rafters. Will it be “8,” which he wore en route to claim­ing three cham­pi­onships and eight All- Star, four All-NBA First Team, and four All-NBA De­fen­sive First Team se­lec­tions? Or will it be “24,” which he head­lined in tak­ing two cham­pi­onships, two Fi­nals Most Valu­able Player awards, and 10 All- Star, seven Al­lNBA First Team, and five All-NBA De­fen­sive First Team spots? Based on stats and ac­co­lades, not to men­tion the trans­for­ma­tion of his ca­reer nar­ra­tive from self­ish baller to ruth­less com­peti­tor, the lat­ter would seem to be a bet­ter choice.

Not that Bryant didn’t have bad days wear­ing either num­ber. Num­ber 8 was a cocky a--hole who placed self above team, as ev­i­denced by the tug-of-war with ac­knowl­edged top dog Shaquille O’Neal that sub­marined a dy­nas­tic run, by the re­cal­ci­trant tank­ing in the rub­ber match of the first-round se­ries against the Suns in 2006 ( not co­in­ci­den­tally his last game in “8”), and, off the court, by crim­i­nal and civil cases of sex­ual as­sault. Num­ber 24 fared bet­ter as a vet­eran men­tor, but a stub­born re­fusal to com­mand any­thing less than max salary and starters’ min­utes even in the wan­ing years ul­ti­mately dealt blows from which the Lak­ers have yet to fully re­cover.

In any case, the an­swer be­came clear some three hours af­ter the story broke: Both num­bers are slated to be hon­ored, which ef­fec­tively means that Bryant will be the first player in the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion to have two jer­seys re­tired for the same fran­chise, and on the same day. And, to be sure, the Lak­ers have cause to do so; as he him­self noted last year when ESPN’s Ra­mona Shel­burne queried him on the mat­ter, “it’ll be pretty hard for some­one else to wear” the num­ber that won’t be join­ing those of Wilt Cham­ber­lain, El­gin Bay­lor, Gail Goodrich, Magic John­son, Ka­reem Ab­dul-Jab­bar, Shaquille O’Neal, James Wor­thy, Jerry West, and Ja­maal Wilkes.

In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, Bryant de­serves to be feted for his ac­com­plish­ments. He will find his uni­forms raised on Dec. 18, and it’s not wrong to sur­mise that, some­time af­ter, he will then see the un­veil­ing of his statue out­side Sta­ples Cen­ter. Th­ese days, hardly any­body re­mem­bers that he once de­manded to be traded, and that he once cut the fig­ure of a petu­lant show­boat who pro­duced more style than sub­stance. Th­ese days, he’s a cer­ti­fied win­ner, des­tined to be in the Hall of Fame.

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