As we all know, Kobe Bryant’s death a little over one year ago was one of the most tragic events that has happened in recent basketball history. Kobe helped make this game what it is, and was arguably the greatest player to ever play for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Mamba Mentality and work ethic of Kobe were two of his greatest attributes, admired by fans worldwide. It should come as no shock that when the world mourned Kobe Bryant’s death, fans and players paid tribute.
Something many NBA players did was run out the 24 second shot clock in honor of Kobe’s second jersey number, 24. Other young rising stars in the league chose to wear number eight or number 24 for one night in honor of Kobe, and in the NBA All-Star Game, Team Giannis wore #24 and Team LeBron wore #2, which was the jersey number of Gianna, Kobe’s daughter. All of a sudden, within days, it seemed that the numbers two, eight, 24, and 81 were everywhere. We saw it in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, when the Los Angeles Lakers were up 24-8 against the Blazers. We saw it in Game 2 of the 2020 NBA Finals, when LeBron James scored the 81st point for the Los Angeles Lakers, with eight minutes and 24 seconds left in the third quarter.
One crazy thing that happened was the combined numbers of Devin Booker and Trae Young (in more ways than one).
On the day of the tragic accident, January 26th, Devin Booker played against the Memphis Grizzlies, while Trae Young played against the Washington Wizards. Together, the two players combined stats were 24 shots attempted, 24 shots made, and 81 points combined. Trae Young also shot 81% from the free throw line, and was the first player since Kobe to have a 45-point double-double with under 25 field goal attempts against the Washington Wizards. This caused Young to remark that Kobe was with him that night. You can’t make these things up.
Young also decided to wear the #8 for just one night, to honor Kobe Bryant. Devin Booker, on the other hand, decided to keep his usual number, #1. When you put two of the league’s best young stars next to one another, both of which have been compared to Kobe, you get the number 81; one of the most meaningful numbers in Kobe’s career.
This was not something that was planned, as because of time zone differences, they wouldn’t have had time to communicate these events. Even if they had, there is no way they could have decided what shots to make as well as miss to honor the Black Mamba. Kobe lives on in the NBA; and in other basketball leagues as well.
Ryan Kelly, a teammate of Bryant’s on the Lakers, now lives and plays basketball in Japan. On the Sun Rockers in the B League, Kelly has been putting up big numbers. During this particular game, Kelly scored 24 points in 24 minutes and 24 seconds. The scary thing is that this wasn’t done on purpose. This game was played hours before Kobe’s fatal crash, so Kelly was stunned when he heard the news. His wife was actually the one who tweeted him the news, as seen below.
Maybe this has something to do with what happened in Kobe’s final game. Kelly was the last player to ever sub out for Kobe, with four seconds left after Kobe had scored his 60th point. Either way, Kobe and Gianna will always be with us in our hearts, souls, and minds.