Sports Out West

Kobe Bryant right to retire Lakers’ No. 24 vs. No. 8

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There’s no question that Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant will go down as the greatest player in team history when he retires.

The only question with respect to his eventual separation from the game he loves is which number jersey he will have hanging above the rafters at Staples Center. Fortunately, Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register answered that question when he reported that Bryant will have No. 24 immortalized when he decides to hang up his sneakers vice the No. 8 he wore to begin his career.

It’s the right move, because NBA fans have seen a more mature, poised Bryant since his MVP season , even though his skills and killer instinct have gone virtually undiminished for 17 years. Take, for example, the 2012-13 season. Bryant is averaging 27.2 points per game in 74 games, his highest total since the 2006-07 season. He’s doing so efficiently, shooting at a near-career-high 46.4 percent from the field.

In short, he’s living up to the “Vino” moniker he garnered this season and getting better with age. That in itself is remarkable considering the physical toll NBA basketball takes on one’s body. He talks about it all the time, yet he’s adding a virtual exclamation point to a storied career by saving some of his best for last.

That’s why No. 24 is more significant. He has matured and understands the game better than he ever has. He’s smarter, yet still effective skill-wise. That’s a special combination. Though there are many theories about why he changed his number in the first place stemming from potentially one-upping Michael Jordan and LeBron James‘ No. 23 to the number being his first choice in the first place, he’s going to do right by his legacy and enshrine the number that means the most when it comes to the most enriching chapters of his career storybook.

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Michael C. Jones is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West and a Southern California-based sports journalist. His work is also regularly featured on Yahoo! Sports and SB Nation. You can catch up with him on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets.