Kobe Bryant's Family Joins Him for Numbers Retirement Ceremony With the Los Angeles Lakers
By Emily Krauser
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Kobe Bryant's numbers have officially been retired.
The Black Mamba returned to the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday night, as his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, retired both of his career jersey numbers, 8 and 24. Kobe played his entire 20-year career with the Lakers.
"8 has something that 24 will never ever ever ever ever have, and that's the ability to grow hair," the man of the hour joked in a presser ahead of the night's game, in which the Lakers took on the visiting Golden State Warriors.
Kobe's wife, Vanessa, and his three daughters -- 14-year-old Natalia, 11-year-old Gianna and 1-year-old Bianka, all joined him for the major milestone. In an absolutely precious moment, the 39-year-old retired NBA pro rolled into arena pushing little Bianka's stroller.
Kobe got visibly emotional as he watched his numbers join nine other Lakers Hall of Famers in the rafters during halftime, acknowledging those that came before him as he opened his speech.
"I want to say, thank you so much for tonight. But it's not about my jerseys that are hanging up there for me. It's about the jerseys that were hanging up there before," he said. "Without them, I couldn't be there today. They inspired me to play the game at a high level: Magic [Johnson], Cap [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar], Shaq pushing me every day. [Elgin] Baylor. [Walt] Chamberlain. [Gail] Goodrich. [Jerry] West. [James] Worthy. It goes on and on."
"And secondly, it's about this class organization... and it's also about the next generation, this current Lakers roster that we have here. It's about embodying the spirit that exists in those jerseys up there and carrying this organization forward so that the next 20 years are better than the past 20 years. That's what it's about," he added.
There was even a special Staples Center party in the baller's honor called "Kobeland," where Vanessa and Kobe hung out with celebs like This Is Us' Justin Hartley.
He went on to thank the fans and the media before turning his attention to the courtside seats where his wife and daughters were sitting.
"And it's about family. It's about my wife, Vanessa. You guys don't know this, but my last game that we had here against the Utah Jazz, I was really tired. I got home, and I was like, 'I don't know if I can do this thing. I got one more game left, but I don't have any legs.' And she said, 'I want to show you something. I got a gift for you for your last game.' And she proceeded to show me the row of retired jerseys from Baylor, from Magic, from Shaq, from Cap, all with personal messages signed to me, including from Michael Jordan, including from the great Bill Russell, including from the great Larry Byrd. When I saw that, I knew then that I had to turn it up," Kobe recalled as his wife watched, smiling wide. "So, thank you, baby, for being an inspiration to me."
"And lastly, our daughters, Natalia, Gianna and Bianka... you guys know that if you do the work, you work hard enough, your dreams come true. You know that. We all know that," he continued. "But hopefully, what you get from tonight is the understanding that those times when you get up early and you work hard, those times when you stay up late and you work hard, those times when you don't feel like working, you're too tired, you don't want to push yourself, but you do it anyway -- that is actually the dream. That's the dream. It's not the destination, it's the journey. And if you guys can understand that, then what you'll see is you won't accomplish your dreams. Your dreams won't come true. Something greater will, and if you guys can understand that, then I'm doing my job as a father."
And, yes, he most definitely ended his nearly five-minute speech with "Mamba, out."