He's the only player in NBA history that got both of his jersey numbers retired. The next thing to honor the late great Kobe Bryant should be the statue outside Staples Center. But which number would the statue be wearing? The obvious answer is to build two of them because picking one of the two is nearly impossible.
I kinda go back and forth. 8 has something that 24 will never have, and that's the ability to grow hair.
Kobe Bryant, NBA
On a serious note, Kobe really did go back and forth with what number to go with. Because each of them represents a different Kobe Bryant. No. 8 is a young, athletic, media aloof, scoring machine, Shaq's partner in crime Kobe, while No. 24 is a more approachable, more mature, legacy enhancing Kobe whose one mission was to prove to the NBA world he can in fact win without O'Neal. And that was the tougher road for Bryant.
No. 24 was more challenging, and I tend to gravitate to things that are harder to do. Physically, it was really hard to get up night in and night out. It's a grind. Taking on the Boston Celtics, having a bone fragment in my foot during that series, having a broken finger, and muscling through that back half of my career, that was one of the toughest stretches of basketball ever man. So I guess if you forced me to pick one, I'd probably go with 24 because of that.
Kobe Bryant, NBA
Numbers-wise, 24 also seems like the better choice. 24 Kobe was the better scorer, averaging 26.3 points to No.8's 23.9. He was also a better all-around player on the offensive end and had a much more polished game while being nearly equally efficient. Advanced stats-wise, 8 was a slightly better defender, with a defensive rating of 104 to No.24's 107. But when it comes to the playoffs, 24 runs away with it. He's a much better and more efficient scorer, has a higher PER (24.8 vs. 20.5), and a TPA of 400.79 to No.8's 317.11.
Accolades also go in favor of 24. Sure, younger Kobe did win one more championship, but Bryant himself has said many times that winning two without Shaq meant the most to him. Oh, and No.24 also has two Finals MVPs to show. All-Star selections, All-NBA selections, All-Defensive team selections, they all go in favor of No.24, and it's all magnified for the simple fact that Bryant was playing without a superstar of O'Neal's stature.
So 24 really does seem like the better choice. But they should still build two statues. If anyone deserves it, it's an NBA icon that is Kobe Bryant.