Saturday, November 04, 2006

Saturday A.M. Quickie:
Kobe Returns (as No. 24)

As a first-year parent, my Friday nights are spent with a combination of delivery pizza (depressing), catching up on my DVR archive and, last night -- gratefully -- skimming around NBA League Pass's free preview, plus the games on ESPN, which included a sight that demanded a double-take: Kobe in uniform No. 24.

It WAS strange. I DID find myself looking at the screen going, "Wait: I haven't seen that No. 24 before, but he's pretty damn good." Can you think of another superstar pro player who switched numbers without switching teams? (Yes, this is what I think about on a Friday night.)

Obviously, college stars switch numbers all the time when they jump to the pros, but the pro star doesn't switch: His number is part of his brand. The most notable one I could think of was Shaq, who went from 32 to 34 when he went from the Magic to the Lakers. But that was switching teams. When was the last time this happened to a star who stayed on his same team?

If Kobe's intended effect was to make fans feel -- if only to a certain degree -- like they were watching a new player, I have to admit it sort of works. On its face, it's a superficial change, but star players' jersey numbers become part of their identities. He has let go of his "8"-ness. It's a form of reinventing himself:

"No. 8 Kobe" was the selfish gunner who blew it in Game 7 of last year's Western Conference playoffs vs. the Suns.

"No. 24 Kobe" scored 23 and seemed generally happy to be around his teammates, who HAD managed to go 2-0 without him. I had previously suggested that maybe the Lakers were better off without Kobe, with trading him for value that would make the overall team better.

I think I was talking about trading "No. 8 Kobe." Because the Kobe in jersey number "24" looked like the player ready to help this team defy preseason expectations (uh, mine) that they would miss the playoffs and be a drag on the West.

Welcome (back) to the NBA, Lakers No. 24.

-- D.S.


nep1293 said...

I'm pretty sure Torry Holt changed his number a few years ago. I think he used to be 88. He's not as much of a star as Kobe but I do remember being a little confused when i first saw it.

Chad said...

Michael Jordan...23 - 45 - 23. That is a fairly famous case of a guy switching numbers without switching teams.

MoL said...

Enough about numbers...did you see the Cavs take care of business in San Antonio last night? If they really want to contend for the title, winning on the road against teams such of this is the way to do it. Oh, and need I mention LeBron's dunk over Duncan. HUGE!

john (east lansing, mi) said...

Well, Michael didn't just decide to switch it up one offseason; it is a pretty notable case, but what're you gonna do, when they retired your number?

The switch BACK to 23 was more of a choice, and if this is true (the reason Jordan went back to 23), it's a fantastic story.

What I wonder now is, how long does Kobe wear 24? Which number do you retire, if he manages, for instance, 3 more championships?

mrmom61 said...

Like Chad said.

JT said...

Ray Bourque changed numbers because the Bruins retired Esposito's number 7.

Kobe changed to get back to his lucky high school number and to be back at the top of the most sold jersey in the NBA. Every fanboys out there now have to get another jersey.

Anonymous said...

Jordan didn't change teams, he changed sports!

Also, what a complete meltdown by Army last night. That was just brutal. Easily the worst first-half performance in a rivalry game that I can remember.

Worldwide Reader said...

NBA League Pass's free preview

Dare I ask you to expand on this ...

BLUE said...

i notice you aren't keeping a running total, but I am. The "all hype" Adam Morrison, scored 21 last night on 8-15. Those are respectable numbers for a rookie in his 2nd NBA game ever, so Mr. Instant History, best rookie performance this year.