In the wake of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, the Dallas Mavericks announced they would retire his number 24 jersey. The San Antonio Spurs should follow their lead and hang Kobe’s number 8 jersey in the rafters of the AT&T Center.
In the hours after the news broke that Kobe Bryant had tragically passed away in a helicopter crash that claimed the lives of his daughter, Gianna, as well seven others, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban announced that his team would retire Kobe’s number 24 jersey. The San Antonio Spurs should follow the Mavericks lead and hang Bryant’s number 8 jersey in the rafters of the AT&T Center.
Kobe’s legacy and the peak years of the San Antonio Spurs are intimately intertwined. From 1999 to 2011, the Western Conference was represented in the NBA Finals by just three franchises. The Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, and Dallas Mavericks dominated the West for much of the early 2000s. The battles between Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe and the Spurs Big Three were legendary and helped build the legacy of the San Antonio Spurs as we know them today.
Just weeks before his death, Kobe appeared on the All the Smoke podcast to discuss the duels between the Lakers and Spurs, specifically mentioning how the formidable Spurs teams of the early 2000s prevented him and Shaq from winning even more titles.
“The bigger question should be, ‘How many would we have won if the Spurs weren’t the Spurs?” We would have ran the table for a decade. The talent, the coaching, everything in San Antonio was kind of a perfect storm. If they weren’t in the picture we probably would have run 10 in a row.”
The rivalry between the Spurs and Lakers is something that we may never see again in today’s NBA. With player movement at an all-time high and the level of parity in the league today it’s difficult to envision two franchises rising to such levels of greatness at the same time.
As much as retiring Kobe’s jersey would be a testament to the hard-fought battles between the two franchises, it would also be paying homage to the impact that Kobe had on the Spurs by inspiring some of their greatest players.
Watch Kawhi Leonard pull up in the midrange, look at DeMar DeRozan‘s footwork. Both grew up in Los Angeles during the height of Kobe’s league-wide dominance. Both looked up to him as an idol and both formed deeper, more personal relationships with the Laker legend as they wrote their own stories in the NBA.
DeRozan said it best when he was asked what Kobe meant to him as a player.
“Everything, everything. Everything I learned came from Kobe. Everything. Take Kobe away and I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have love, wouldn’t have the passion, the drive. Everything came from him.”
You can see the ripples of Kobe’s legacy across the NBA in the games of players on every team. He’s there in Devin Booker‘s post-up game, Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s indomitable will, James Harden‘s “everyone get out of my way and let me work” mentality. He is everywhere.
The tragic passing of Kobe Bryant will be felt around the league for years to come. He was a global ambassador for basketball, a fierce competitor, and a loving father. The Dallas Mavericks set the trend by announcing the retirement of his number 24 jersey, the San Antonio Spurs should do the same with number 8.
The legacy of Kobe Bryant will live on in younger generations of NBA players and fans for eternity. His jersey deserves to hang with the other Spurs greats as a testament to the impact that he had on the franchise, and the game, that we all love.